China Mourns Henry Kissinger Late US Statesman

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The death of contentious former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has drawn nostalgia and compliments in China at a time when relations between the two countries have nosedived.

He was one of very few foreign leaders who met five generations of Communist leaders, from Mao to Xi Jinping.

He visited China more than 100 times, long after he retired – the last visit was this July, where the 99-year-old former diplomat was welcomed by Mr Xi in Beijing despite the chill in relations between China and the US.

Mr Xi said to him China would never forget “our old friends” and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi said that the US needed “Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom” in its China policy.

“You are forever a friend of Chinese people, rest in peace,” a top-liked comment on the country’s social media platform Weibo reads.

Hours after news of the death broke, the related hashtag became the most searched trend in China, with millions of views.

“This is the end of an era,” a top-liked comment says. “He witnessed decades of ups and downs. What would he think about current China-US relations?” another user asked.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have perhaps hit their lowest point since the two sides began talking officially in 1979 – a culmination of efforts kicked off by Mr Kissinger.

While ties were “normalised” under President Jimmy Carter, it was his predecessor Richard Nixon who made that first historic trip to Beijing to meet Mao Zedong in 1972, putting an end to decades of hostility.

Mr Kissinger, who shaped US foreign policy during some of the most crucial Cold War years, was instrumental in brokering that trip, which many see as a pivotal moment in China’s decision to engage with the West. In 1971, he paid a clandestine visit to Beijing to arrange the meeting.

Largely respectful and solemn, the comments on Chinese social media portray Mr Kissinger as an old and trusted friend from a time when the US and China had eagerly embraced each other.

It was also a time when America was trying to talk to the Soviet Union, and hoped better relations with China would increase the pressure. The Vietnam war was still raging – Mr Kissinger has both been lauded for crafting a peace deal, and also denounced for not ending the war earlier. And he was called a war criminal for his role in the bombing of Laos and Cambodia, which killed tens of thousands of civilians.

Disliked in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, he was nevertheless lionised in China for his role in launching what was the honeymoon period in US-China relations.

Mr Kissinger was one of the most well-known Americans among Chinese people. To this day, his name is taught in history lessons across the country, and so many see him as a friendly Western face – something that they believe has become increasingly rare.

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