Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned on Wednesday that the U.S. and China were in the “foothills of a Cold War” and could be headed toward a conflict worse than World War I.
Kissinger flew to Beijing in 1971 to begin trade talks with China when he served as Richard Nixon’s secretary of state. He presented his views on U.S.–China relations at Wednesday’s Bloomberg New Economy Forum, held in Beijing.
“If conflict is permitted to run unconstrained the outcome could be even worse than it was in Europe,” Kissinger said. “World War I broke out because a relatively minor crisis could not be mastered.”
The former secretary of state asserted that it was “especially important that a period of relative tension be followed by an explicit effort to understand what the political causes are and a commitment by both sides to try to overcome those . . . It is far from being too late for that, because we are still in the foothills of a cold war.”
The U.S. and China are in the midst of strained relations resulting, in part, from an ongoing trade war. President Trump has imposed tariffs on a range of imports from China, to which China has responded by ceasing imports of U.S. agricultural goods.
“Everybody knows that trade negotiations, which I hope will succeed and whose success I support, can only be a small beginning to a political discussion that I hope will take place,” Kissinger said at the forum.
Chinese vice president Wang Qishan, who spoke at the beginning of the forum, called for better relations with the U.S.
“Between war and peace, the Chinese people firmly choose peace. Humanity cherishes peace,” Wang said. “We should abandon the zero-sum thinking and cold war mentality.”