Wang meets Kissinger as Kerry wraps up China visit; Beijing delivers clear message to Washington

Chen Qingqing, Global Times, July 19, 2023 —

Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, shakes hands with visiting centenarian former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger as they meet in Beijing on July 19, 2023. Photo: AFP

When visiting US climate envoy John Kerry wrapped up his four-day visit to China on Wednesday, China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi met the centenarian former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, an old friend of the Chinese people who has made historic contributions to the ice-breaking development in China-US relations. During the meeting held in Beijing, Wang Yi called on the US government to change its current China policy which is now characterized as containment and suppression.The Chinese official also expressed hope that US’ China policy will have Kissinger-style wisdom and Nixon-style political courage, which was seen by experts as a clear message Beijing delivered to Washington given that US’ China policy, under the toxic environment of its domestic politics, has deviated from a rational and sound track, creating growing obstacles for the bilateral relations.

Kerry and Kissinger have become the latest US official or high-profile public figure to visit China following the trips of some US senior officials including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, signaling an accelerating resumption of high-level interactions between the two countries as the bilateral ties have hit the historical low point due to a series of issues such as Washington’s wrong and provocative deeds on the Taiwan question and mishandling of the Chinese balloon incident.

Some experts said the resumption of the series of high-level communication channels between the two countries sends out a positive signal of bringing divergences under control and preventing the bilateral relations from derailing off the track.

The recent high-level re-engagement between the two countries could also pave the way for the possible meeting between the two heads of state in the second half of 2023, during the G20 Leaders’ Summit or APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, possibly, some experts said. But where the bilateral relations are heading to in the long run remains uncertain given that domestic politics in the US still remains toxic and Washington is unlikely to change its unhealthy China policy, they noted.

Clear message

Wang, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said Kissinger played an irreplaceable role in enhancing mutual understanding between the two countries. China maintains a high degree of continuity in its policy toward the US, following the principles raised by the Chinese President Xi Jinping about mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, which are fundamental and long-term, Wang said, noting that those are the ways for China and the US to deal with each other correctly.

China’s development has a strong internal driving force and an inevitable historical logic. It is impossible to try to transform China, even more so to contain and suppress China, Wang said, adding that US’ China policy needs Kissinger-style wisdom and Nixon-style political courage.

“The current US policy toward China is eager to transform China or contain China, which will not succeed and it is doomed to fail. Wang delivered this message to the Biden administration through the talks with Kissinger, urging the incumbent US officials to have the political courage to adjust their China policy,” Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Some Western media described the visit of the 100-year-old former secretary of state to China as a “surprise one,” and a US State Department spokesperson was quoted as saying in media reports on Tuesday that the Biden administration knew about his plan to travel to China.

“The outstanding significance of Kissinger’s visit is that it played a role in the usual communication channel to resolve the problem,” Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. “But it’s unrealistic to expect that such visit could yield some immediate outcomes.”

One day earlier, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu met Kissinger. The military-to-military communication channel between the two countries has been suspended since then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a provocative visit to the island of Taiwan in August 2022.

“It’s not a secret that the military talks between China and the US are not smooth due to a series of negative moves of the US toward China over military and security, including the existing sanctions on our defense chief,” Li Haidong said. “But Kissinger could play an unofficial role of helping clearing off some obstacles, paving a way for possible future talks.”

Positive sign

On the day wrapping up his visit to China, Kerry met with China’s Vice President Han Zheng on Wednesday, saying that the climate issue should be treated as a “free-standing” challenge despite diplomatic difficulties in recent years, and that the climate issue requires the collective efforts of the two countries to resolve, Reuters reported.

Climate change bears on the sustainable development of mankind. As a responsible major country, China has adhered to the new development philosophy and actively responded to climate change in accordance with the inherent requirements of high-quality development, Han told Kerry during the meeting, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

We are ready to seek the greatest common ground on the basis of respecting each other’s core concerns and full communication with the US, push for the in-depth implementation of the Paris Agreement and make new contributions to addressing global challenges such as climate change, Han said.

During his visit to China this week, Kerry met with Premier Li Qiang, senior diplomat Wang Yi and China’s special envoy for climate change Xie Zhenhua as part of the latest effort to revive climate cooperation between the world’s two largest economies.

“Both countries have yielded some positive results in climate change cooperation before. For example, they jointly pushed forward the Paris agreement, and such cooperation could help increase mutual trust and dispel some doubts to some extent,” Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

China has always been playing an active role in fulfilling its commitment on the climate change, underscoring its responsibilities as a major country, but the US had been flip-flop on its policy, for example, during the Trump administration, Diao said, noting that it’s up to the US on whether those climate change commitments can be met.

In terms of China’s commitments and actions on carbon peaking and carbon neutrality, Xi said at a national conference on ecological and environmental protection earlier this week that China’s commitments are unswerving, but the path towards the goals as well as the manner, pace and intensity of efforts to achieve them should and must be determined by the country itself, rather than swayed by others.

“Separating the climate change issue from the overall bilateral relations is unrealistic as the climate issue is one of major the topics in US’ China policy. A major result of Kerry’s visit is to re-launch the communication channel on the matter, helping him understand China’s principles and bottom-line on the climate topic,” Li Haidong said, noting that such knowledge will help the Biden administration to review the country’s climate cooperation with China in the future.

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