Henry Kissinger on China-U.S. relations in the age of Trump


The grand old man of American foreign policy gave a talk about what we can expect for the next four years.

On Wednesday, Henry Kissinger spoke with Cheng Li, author of Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era, on the subject “U.S.-China Relations in the Trump-Xi Era” at an event organized in New York City by the Committee of 100 and co-hosted by the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business.

SupChina was one of a handful of media organizations in attendance. To see a full review of the event, see our later report titled “Optimism from veteran participants in U.S.-China relations.” What follows is an initial release of the more notable remarks from Kissinger.

First, Kissinger said that there is a possibility of a “revolution” in Sino-American ties every time there is a new administration. However, he felt that because of the “collective interest” in cooperation, a significant change was unlikely, and that when confronted with a real choice between cooperation and confrontation, the choice will be probably be clear and that he is “optimistic that the cooperative way will prevail.”

As a “participant” in forming the one-China policy and someone who has worked to maintain it over the course of eight American administrations, Kissinger said, “I don’t hear [Trump] saying we don’t have to be bound by it. I hear him saying we don’t have to be bound by every application of it, like communication.” He also believes that Trump will change his tone once he is in office and surrounded by people who are better versed in cross-Strait relations. In addition, Kissinger noted that the “unusually restrained” response of Chinese government officials to Trump’s testing of the one-China policy indicates that they likely agree with this view.

Finally, commenting on the nomination of Rex Tillerson for U.S. Secretary of State, Kissinger said, “I’ve paid no attention to this argument that he is too close to Russia,” and expressed his satisfaction with Tillerson as an appointee. Earlier in the event, participants had noted the importance of China-Russia-U.S. cooperation on issues including counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and nuclear non-proliferation.