Xi said the visit by Kissinger, who has been to China more than 100 times and recently turned 100, had special significance because of the two “hundreds.”
Kissinger, who was Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, made a secret trip to China to 1971 that laid the groundwork for a historic trip by the president the following year and the formalization of relations between the United States and China in 1979.
“It not only changed the two countries, but also changed the world,” Xi said, according to the state-run broadcaster CCTV.
Xi said the Chinese people value their country’s friendship with Kissinger and the U.S.
“We will never forget our old friend and your historic contribution to promoting the development of Sino-U.S. relations and enhancing the friendship between the Chinese and American peoples,” he said.
Kissinger said it was a “great honor” to visit China again, noting that his meeting with Xi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, where many important diplomatic events are held, was the same place where he met in 1971 with Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier at the time.
“The relationship between the two countries is related to world peace and the progress of human society,” Kissinger said, according to CCTV.
The U.S. and China, now the world’s two largest economies, have recently experienced some of their worst relations since diplomatic ties were established amid disputes over trade, human rights and the status of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its territory.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said this week that the Biden administration was aware of Kissinger’s visit to China but that he was acting “under his own volition, not acting on behalf of the United States government.”
Kissinger’s visit to Beijing coincided with one by John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, who met with senior Chinese officials but not Xi. Kerry, whose trip marked the first formal top-level climate diplomacy between the world’s two biggest carbon polluters since talks were suspended last year, ended his trip Wednesday without the two countries issuing a joint statement on climate cooperation.
Xi also did not meet with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen when she was in Beijing this month.
Kissinger also met this week with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, and Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who is under U.S. sanctions and had rejected a request from the Pentagon for a meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in May on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore.
“U.S. policy towards China requires Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom and Nixon-style political courage,” Wang told Kissinger during their meeting Wednesday, according to the official website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.