Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger has called on the U.S. and China to set boundaries on threats to one another, or risk a mutual slide into a world war.
Kissinger is credited with engineering the establishment of relations between communist China and the U.S., during his tenure as secretary of state to President Richard Nixon. The underlying rationale for opening relations, Kissinger has maintained, was to gain strategic dominance over the Soviet Union, which neighbored China to the north and west.
China has since risen to become the second-largest economy in the world and a chief opponent of the U.S., in a rivalry that has only soured with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Kissinger, now 97 years old, warned in a virtual lecture to the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday that the two countries needed to limit their conflict.
“Our leaders and [China’s] leaders have to discuss the limits beyond which they will not push threats, and how to define that,” Kissinger said. “You can say this is totally impossible, but if it is, we will slide into a situation similar to World War I.”
Kissinger explained that U.S. policymakers should “think of an economic world in which no other country should be able to blackmail us, but where that objective is not designed in such a way that all potential technological capabilities in other countries have to be confronted and reduced.”
The former secretary has warned in the past of the possibility of conflict between the U.S. and China. Before the pandemic in November 2019, Kissinger said at a conference in Beijing that the countries were “in the foothills of a cold war.”