Xi Jinping welcomes old friend Henry Kissinger in surprise trip to Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping has welcomed “old friend” Henry Kissinger in Beijing after a surprise visit from the 100-year-old former US Secretary of State.

Xi met Kissinger at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, the same diplomatic building where the former diplomat was received during his first visit to China in 1971, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Kissinger, who served as secretary of state and national security adviser in the Nixon and Ford administrations, played a key diplomatic role in improving relations between Washington and Beijing in the 1970s.

Since then, he has visited China more than 100 times, the Chinese leader noted while praising the former diplomat.

Xi said: “We never forget our old friends, and will never forget your historic contribution to the development of China-US relations and the enhancement of friendship between the two peoples.

“China and the United States are once again at the crossroads of where to go, and the two sides need to make a choice again,” he continued, stressing the importance of continuing “to play a constructive role in bringing China-US relations back to the right track.”

Mr Kissinger’s visit to China comes at a time when relations between the two countries have reached a historic low, with the risk of sinking even lower.

The two superpowers have had disagreements on a number of issues of global importance, including the war in Ukraine, trade arrangements, human rights, technology and Taiwan.

Mr Kissinger said: “The relationship between our two countries is a matter of world peace and the progress of human society.

“Under the current circumstances, it is imperative to maintain the principles established by the Shanghai Communique, appreciate the utmost importance China attaches to the one-China principle, and move the relationship in a positive direction.”

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Mr Kissinger’s private trip overlapped with an official visit from John Kerry, the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, which saw US and China resume climate talks after nearly a year.

This followed a number of trips by US cabinet officials in recent weeks, including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who’s the only US official to have been granted a face-to-face meeting with Xi.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, told CNN that Xi’s meetings are chosen purposefully to send a signal to the outside world.

He said: “The message is very clear: Xi Jinping wants to meet with the pro-China people, who are willing to speak out for China,” he said, describing his approach as “a divide-and-conquer strategy.”

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