Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger may be in his nineties, but he’s continuing to play a key, globe-spanning role in one of the most substantive foreign policy negotiations of the US presidency so far.
Kissinger, who brokered a ground-breaking detente between the US and China’s Communist Party’s in 1972, has served a valued go-between for the two nations for more than four decades, earning him the nickname of “old friend of the Chinese people.” It’s privilege he has shared with at least 600 people, although Kissinger may be the living person who has held the nickname the longest.
As recently as December, when then US president-elect Donald Trump threatened upheaval between the world’s most powerful nations, by accepting a congratulatory call from Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen, Kissinger was already in Beijing with Chinese president Xi Jinping, reassuring him that “overall, we hope to see the China-US relationship moving ahead in a sustained and stable manner.” (A Bloomberg report suggested that Xi may have turned to the venerable diplomat to better understand Trump, telling Kissinger he was “all ears” regarding what he had to say about the future of US-China relations.)
Kissinger met with the incoming Trump administration soon after the election, and helped to connect Chinese politicians with the US president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the Washington Post reports—connections that ultimately led to this week’s meeting.
In doing so, he’s opened up a now familiar controversy in the US—who does Kissinger work for, exactly, and whose side is he on?