BEIJING — Amid a steep downturn in relations with the United States, China has looked to a meeting with former U.S. national security adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to revive positive momentum.
The 100-year-old Kissinger met Wednesday with the ruling Communist Party’s diplomat Wang Yi, who said it was “impossible” to transform, encircle or contain China, reiterating top Chinese leaders’ statements on what they say the U.S. is trying to do based on differences over trade, technology, Taiwan and China’s human rights record.
On Tuesday, Kissinger held talks with Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who is barred from visiting the U.S. over arms sales he oversaw with Russia.
China’s Defense Ministry quoted Li as praising the role Kissinger played in opening up China-U.S. relations in the early 1970s, but said bilateral ties had hit a low point because of “some people on the American side who are not willing to meet China halfway.”
U.S. leaders say they have no such intentions, but seek only frank dialogue and fair competition in the economic sector.
China broke off some mid- and high-level contacts with the Biden administration last August, including over climate issues, to show its anger with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. China claims the island as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary, threatening to draw the U.S. into a major conflict in a region crucial to the global economy.
Contacts have only slowly been restored and China continues to refuse to restart dialogue between the People’s Liberation Army, the party’s military branch, and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Kissinger’s visit coincides with that of Biden’s top climate envoy John Kerry, the third senior Biden administration official in recent weeks to travel to China for meetings with their counterparts following Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
The wave of U.S. diplomacy has yet to be reciprocated by China, which has its own list of concessions it wants from Washington. Serving U.S. officials, including Kerry, say they will not be offering any such deals to Beijing.