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Kissinger's death marks end to backdoor deals by major powers: Scholar

12/01/2023 05:34 PM
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Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger attends a U.S. Congress hearing on Jan. 29, 2015. CNA file photo
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger attends a U.S. Congress hearing on Jan. 29, 2015. CNA file photo

Taipei, Dec. 1 (CNA) Taiwan is one of the small countries whose interests were considered expendable in the eyes of Henry Kissinger, whose death brings to an end the era of covert dealings between major powers, according to a Taiwanese scholar.

Kissinger, who died on Wednesday aged 100, was the geostrategist who set the path for the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the 1970s.

Political science professor Albert Chiu (邱師儀) at Tunghai University said although Kissinger was a key strategist in U.S. foreign policy for many administrations, he was also a controversial figure criticized by both Republicans and Democrats.

Kissinger has often been depicted as a Machiavellian political operator who engaged in diplomacy through secretive maneuvering and power politics at the expense of small countries, of which Taiwan was one, Chiu said.

In July, the 100-year-old Kissinger risked the long flight to visit China and was warmly received by China's leader Xi Jinping (習近平), who called the diplomat "an old friend."

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (left) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on July 20, 2023. Photo: China News Service
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (left) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on July 20, 2023. Photo: China News Service

As the architect of the U.S. diplomatic thaw with the PRC, Kissinger paid a secret visit to Beijing in 1971 for then U.S. President Richard Nixon before Nixon's historic meeting with Mao Zedong the next year.

In the "Shanghai Communique" jointly announced during Nixon's trip, the United States stated its "interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question." But Kissinger never protested when China said it had the right to use force over Taiwan, Chiu said.

The professor added that while later U.S. administrations believed China would change or even democratize if incorporated into the world trade system, that was not on Kissinger's mind when he brokered the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Chiu said the diplomat reached out to China in an effort to combat the Soviet Union, the main rival of the U.S. on the global stage at that time.

The era of backroom politics and big powers undertaking underhand negotiations has come to an end with Kissinger's death, Chiu said.

On whether Kissinger's legacy will continue to influence U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, Chiu said the U.S. presidential election next year will be a turning point.

If former U.S. president Donald Trump returns to the White House, not only will the easing of tensions between the U.S. and China that Kissinger once stood for disappear, "the opposite side would rise," meaning the anti-China camp could hold sway.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gives a speech at a Computer Associates event in Las Vegas in July 2003. CNA file photo
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gives a speech at a Computer Associates event in Las Vegas in July 2003. CNA file photo

Director of Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies Li Da-chung (李大中) said by praising and offering a warm welcome to former diplomat Kissinger when the latter visited in July, Beijing was implicitly showing its discontent over its current relationship with the U.S.

In an interview in May, Kissinger referred to Taiwan as "an insoluble problem" to which "there is no solution, other than time." He said he would "welcome a formula that maintains the present status for a period of years in which, for example, the two sides [China and U.S.] will not issue threats against each other, or will limit their deployments against each other."

(By Wu Sheng-hung and Alison Hsiao)

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