BEIJING • As he has done for decades, Dr Henry Kissinger is again shuttling between Washington and Beijing to defuse tensions, this time as Chinese President Xi Jinping tries to figure out how much of US President-elect Donald Trump's China-bashing will follow him into the White House.
The 93-year-old former secretary of state, who secretly brokered president Richard Nixon's watershed visit to China in 1972, returned to Beijing to meet state leaders yesterday, just two weeks after huddling with Mr Trump in New York.
While little about Dr Kissinger's closed-door talks has been disclosed, Chinese officials are trying to assess whether the incoming administration will prompt greater confrontation over trade and territory disputes, as Mr Trump promised on the campaign trail.
"We are now in a key moment. We on the Chinese side are watching the situation very closely," Mr Xi said yesterday as he welcomed the retired diplomat in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. He added: "Dr Kissinger, I am all ears to what you have to say about the current world situation and the future growth of China-US relations."
Dr Kissinger thanked Mr Xi and Chinese officials for explaining "the nature of your thinking and the purposes of your long-range policy".
Dr Kissinger's endurance as China's preferred go-between more than four decades after leaving office highlights the communication gaps between the world's biggest economies even as their fates grow increasingly entwined.
The issues are particularly acute in the wake of Mr Trump's shock election victory last month, which has sent US allies and rivals alike scrambling to assess how the billionaire real estate developer plans to manage diplomatic ties.