On November 2023, 11 local time, Kissinger Consulting issued a statement saying that former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger passed away at the age of 29. As a geopolitician, diplomat, and scholar with world influence, Kissinger has been active in the international political arena for more than half a century. Its realist diplomacy has also been controversial and criticized, and has even been criticized as "unprincipled" and "bottomless". Before his death, Kissinger was still focusing on the research of artificial intelligence, and warned China and the United States that the fate of mankind depends on whether China and the United States can live in harmony, especially with the rapid development of artificial intelligence, leaving only the next five to ten years for both sides to find a way to get along.

As an old friend of the Chinese people, Kissinger has visited China more than 70 times from his secret visit to China in the 7s of the last century to his last visit in July this year. After Kissinger's death, the reporter of "Hong Kong 100" interviewed Gao Zhikai, chair professor at Soochow University and deputy director of the Center for Globalization (CCG), who joined the translation office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 01 and served as Deng Xiaoping's English translator. In 1983 and 1985, he participated in the reception of Kissinger twice at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, served as his English translator and Chinese translator, and accompanied Kissinger to visit the Forbidden City, Xi'an, Shaanxi, Kunming, Yunnan, Yunnan Stone Forest and other places. After leaving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1987, Gao Zhikai was recommended by Kissinger to study at Yale University, where he received his J.D. in 1988. This is the first part of the interview.

Gao Zhikai, chair professor of Soochow University and deputy director of the Center for Globalization (CCG). (File photo)

"Deng Xiaoping attaches great importance to Kissinger's visit to China"

When talking about his contacts with Kissinger in the 80s of the last century, Gao Zhikai frankly said that there were two points that impressed him the most, one of which was the importance that the Chinese leaders attached to Kissinger's visit to China. "Comrade Deng Xiaoping in particular, I remember Comrade Xiaoping said that when two people come to visit China, I must meet them, one is former US President Richard Nixon, and the other is former US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Kissinger. At that time, Deng Xiaoping was already encouraging cadres to become younger, so many foreign affairs activities were being reduced, but he made it very clear to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he must meet Nixon and Kissinger during their visit to China, and it is conceivable that Comrade Deng Xiaoping attached great importance to Kissinger's views on Sino-US relations at that time, and he also appreciated Dr. Kissinger's great contribution to promoting mutual understanding and cooperation between China and the United States."

The second is Kissinger's memo. In 1985, when he accompanied Kissinger on his visit to China, Gao Zhikai talked freely with Kissinger all the way, and Gao Zhikai recalled that Dr. Kissinger had a characteristic that every time he met with the Chinese leader, he would personally write a memo, which he later handed over to the then US president. It doesn't matter if the president was a Republican or a Democrat at the time. So in this regard, Kissinger has a bipartisan spirit, and the ultimate goal is to promote world peace and state-to-state relations."

In addition to the spirit of transcending the two parties, Gao Zhikai also talked about Kissinger's sense of historical depth in his view of the issue and his consistent view of Sino-US relations. "Dr. Kissinger is a politician and a university scholar, and he has a deep understanding of world history and Chinese history, so when facing any problem, he often stretches the time span, and it is precisely because of his deep historical knowledge that he has a deeper view of many things that are happening now, and he is more accurate."

Kissinger's death: Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Seattle on September 2015, 9. (Reuters)

In his 2011 book On China, Kissinger presents an in-depth study of Chinese history, as well as Chinese civilization and culture. Gao Zhikai said frankly that Kissinger lives in a time and space that connects the past, present, and future, "He knows very well about the situation in the United States, the situation in Europe, and he has read a lot of books and done a lot of research on the situation in China, so he can not only see the world and China from the perspective of the United States, but also look at the United States, a country with a history of only a few hundred years, according to China's long history." On the other hand, in the American political and academic circles after Kissinger, Gao Zhikai said, "They often talk about things on their own merits, without the support of history, and without the courage and ability to look forward to the future." Therefore, after Kissinger's death, there was a sigh that "there is no more Kissinger in the United States."

From the inevitable war between China and the United States to the inevitable peace between China and the United States"

In the past few years, as Sino-US relations have continued to deteriorate, the inevitable Sino-US World War, the clash of civilizations, and the Thucydides trap have become popular in American political and academic circles. In May this year, before his 5th birthday, Kissinger mentioned in an eight-hour interview with The Economist that the current US government is more than narrow in its short-term interests, completely forgetting how to deal with China, and completely unwilling to understand the real China, and that "officials with Chinese experience have been eliminated by the US State Department." One consequence of this is a serious miscalculation of China. In Washington, Kissinger said, "they say China wants to dominate the world ... But the answer is that they [China] want to be strong," "They didn't want to rule the world like Hitler, that's not their view of the world order, and they never thought that way." "For China, China's biggest fear is internal turmoil, and in the past, China has repeatedly shut out foreign countries, whether it is building the Great Wall or closing the country to the outside world, the essence of which is to isolate itself from the outside world, and prevent external forces from destroying the interior and causing internal turmoil."

In fact, since his secret visit to China in the last century, Kissinger, who adheres to the concept of realist diplomacy, has always emphasized that China and the United States should get along amicably. Gao Zhikai also said that in the 1970s, China's economy was still very small in general, and the level of development in all aspects was relatively low, but the United States was already a superpower at that time, and from Kissinger's point of view, he was able to see through China's past, present and future, especially the potential of the future, and he was able to see that China would definitely grow up in the future and play a very important role in the international arena, so for the United States, China was an important opportunity to promote Sino-US understanding and mutual cooperation. Not only for China, but also for the United States. "This kind of concept has lasted for more than 50 years, which is very commendable, whether it is in the initial stage, or when the Sino-US relationship is booming into the honeymoon period, and after 2017, when the Sino-US relationship is at a low point and faces major challenges, Kissinger has never lost faith in the future cooperation prospects of China-US relations."

Kissinger, Zhou Enlai, and Mao Zedong. (File photo)

As for the "China and the United States must have a war" that the United States has tried to exaggerate, in Gao Zhikai's view, this theory is actually a fallacy, because the war examples cited in this theory are all conventional weapons, but today China and the United States are not only important conventional weapons countries, but also nuclear weapons powers, so the conclusions drawn from the analysis of conventional weapons war cases cannot be applied to the two nuclear powers, China and the United States. Regarding Sino-US relations, Gao Zhikai put forward his own theory - the inevitable peace between China and the United States. "Although China and the United States have different political systems, different political philosophies, different paths, and different flags, they can respect each other and achieve common development in the end. "China's success should never be based on U.S. failures, and U.S. success should not be based on China's failures."

As for how China and the United States can achieve the inevitable peace, in Gao Zhikai's view, there is a precondition, that is, China must be strong, and the United States will continue to be strong, and there is no room for any miscalculation between China and the United States. "If one side feels that it can destroy the other without consequences, then the inevitable peace between China and the United States cannot be achieved." So for China, we must strengthen our national defense, but what is the purpose of our strengthening national defense? It's not about dominating the world, it's about ensuring the inevitable peace between China and the United States."

Finding a "Convergence of Interests" in a World of Conflict

From the Russia-Ukraine war to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, peace has become more important than ever in a world on fire. The premise of peacekeeping is to find the convergence of common interests from "difference". On December 12, Xi Jinping also mentioned in his congratulatory letter to the 2 "Understanding China" International Conference (Guangzhou) that "we are unswervingly committed to expanding the convergence of interests of all countries and constantly bringing new impetus and new opportunities to the world with China's new development."

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaks at the annual awards dinner of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in New York on October 2023, 10. (Xinhua News Agency)

Speaking about Kissinger's realist diplomacy, Gao Zhikai also talked about the importance of how to maximize the common good. "China has China's interests, the United States has the interests of the United States, and we can't agree on all issues, there will definitely be differences, what should we do if there are differences? It is important to understand each other's bottom line through engagement and negotiation, and then seek common ground while reserving differences so that the common interests can be maximized." "On the other hand, the United States, especially after 2017, has gone to an extreme, why? This is because the United States has forgotten that the fundamental common divisor between countries is interests, not values, political systems, ideologies, and so on. Can China's values be the same as those of the United States? Does the United States want to impose its own values on China? Or will China impose its own values on the United States? The United States always pays lip service to certain values, but can the entire Arab countries and the Islamic world accept all the values of the United States?"

Gao Zhikai concluded, "When a country pays lip service to its values, and therefore abandons the fundamental analysis and judgment of the interests of the whole country, I think it is taking a wrong path." Pursuing national interests rather than being trapped in certain values and ideologies is precisely what Kissinger's realist diplomacy pursues. "The Kissinger people are gone, but the spiritual wealth is still there, and how we can carry it forward and ensure the inevitable peace between China and the United States is a top priority."

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