BEIJING (AFP) - US statesman Henry Kissinger, who spearheaded efforts to end Cold War hostility between Washington and China more than four decades ago, on Tuesday told President Xi Jinping that the two powers were now in a position to set the global agenda.
"I could not imagine that the day would come in which China and the United States would jointly be able to discuss the future of peace and progress in the entire world," Kissinger said at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
The 91-year-old diplomat and strategist is renowned for leading secret negotiations that led to staunch anti-communist President Richard Nixon's landmark 1972 visit to the People's Republic and his meeting with Mao Zedong.
Ultimately, the United States and China established diplomatic relations in 1979 when Washington switched recognition to Beijing from the Nationalist government in Taiwan.
"You will always get a warm welcome when you visit China," Xi told Kissinger. "You are the ice-breaker for ties between the two countries." Kissinger, a former Harvard professor and the author of numerous books on diplomacy and international relations, was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize with Hanoi's Le Duc Tho for Paris peace negotiations that paved the way for an end to the Vietnam War, although the North Vietnamese Politburo member declined the honour.
Despite acclaim as a strategist and diplomat, Kissinger has also come under harsh criticism over US policies in the 1970s seen as supportive of authoritarian regimes in regions such as Southeast Asia and Latin America, notably those of Chile and Indonesia.
Xi said that China places "great importance" on ties with the US and mentioned a November summit he held with President Barack Obama in Beijing.
"We reached consensus on many things concerning the direction of building a new model of relations between two major countries," Xi said, using Beijing's favoured encapsulation of its view that it stands on an equal footing with the US, the world's only superpower.
"We need to enhance cooperation, properly manage differences, and maintain timely communication on international issues," Xi said, adding that Kissinger had "insightful views and deep understanding about China's opening-up and reform".
Kissinger thanked Xi for "interrupting" his reform work "to see a private citizen who is visiting China".