Thirty years after the "Ping-pong Diplomacy" opened the door to China-US diplomatic relations, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger came back to Beijing again to play ping-pong (table tennis) with Chinese Vice- Premier Li Lanqing.
On his 34th visit to China since 1971, Dr. Kissinger described himself as a "poor player by Chinese standards," and "by American standard, a mediocre player."
"I like ping-pong, I play ping-pong," he said. "The reason I have trouble hitting it now is because I have damaged my right eye. Now I can't play it much any more because of my eye, but I used to play a great deal," Dr. Kissinger told Xinhua in an interview just before he concluded his latest visit to China this week.
On this first visit to China in the 21st century, he headed a delegation composed of former senior officials from the previous six U.S. administrations.
But the "poor player" is well known in China, a country of more than a billion population, for his high expertise in Sino-U.S. diplomacy and his contribution to the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States.
Dr. Kissinger said he was satisfied with the development of relations between China and the United States over the past 30 years and is optimistic about the direction of the relationship.
"I think the relationship is improving, and I'm very hopeful, having had the privilege of talking with your leaders, that we are beginning a new period of cooperation, and closer cooperation, between our two countries," he said.
China-U.S. relations should be based on the common interest of people of the two countries and peace, stability and progress of Asia and the world as well, he said.
China and the U.S. need to and can cooperate on issues like the Korean Peninsula, nonproliferation of weapons and the World Trade Organization (WTO), said Dr. Kissinger. And by the time U.S. President George W. Bush visits China in October this year, China- U.S. relations would have progressed.
The senior diplomat denied worries that China-U.S. relations might become a kind of "Cold War," saying that he did not expect the relationship to go in any direction except to a good relationship.
"I am very confident that your (Chinese) leaders don't want cold war," he said. "I know our leaders, personally for many years. I know they do not want a cold war."
On the issue of Taiwan, Kissinger said Taiwan is a very sensitive issue in Sino-U.S. relations. He stressed that the U.S. has approved the one-China principle in the three joint communiques. He said he believes the U.S. side will continue its one-China policy.
Kissinger noted that the U.S. side recently said repeatedly they would prefer and reach for a peaceful solution of the Taiwan issue. He did not believe there would be conflicts over the Taiwan issues. "I hope and I am confident that our leaders on both sides will make every effort to avoid it (confrontation)," he said.
The 30-year relationship with China made his life so closely connected to China. Kissinger described his relations with China as both "intellectual" and "diplomatic." He said he loves Chinese culture and has a "strong feeling for China."
"I am impressed by the enormous energy and intelligence of the (Chinese) people," he said, adding that he has many Chinese friends and plans many visits to China in the years to come.
The former U.S. secretary of state was also sympathetic to China's bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games.
"I think it is the dream of China to want the Olympics," he said. "I hope they (the Chinese people) get it and I would like to come here for that."
(People's Daily 03/26/2001)