Mar 27, 2021 11:52 UTC
  • US-China rivalry risks 'catastrophic' conflict, Kissinger warns

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has warned that the United States and China must come to an understanding on international affairs or there will be a risk of "catastrophic" conflict similar to the one before the First World War.

Speaking online at a Chatham House event in London, Kissinger said "endless" competition between the world's two largest economies risks unforeseen escalation and subsequent conflict, and that the ultimate question was whether or not the United States and its Western allies could develop an understanding with China about a new global order.

“If we don’t get to that point and if we don’t get to an understanding with China on that point then we will be in a pre-World War One-type situation in Europe, in which there are perennial conflicts that get solved on an immediate basis but one of them gets out of control at some point,” he said.

“It is infinitely more dangerous now than it was then,” Kissinger added, stressing that the high-tech weaponry on both sides could lead to a very grave conflict.

"A conflict between countries possessing high technology with weapons that can target themselves and that can start the conflict by themselves without some agreement of some kind of restraint cannot end well," the former US diplomat said. "And that's an understatement."

Kissenger served as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under President Richard Nixon, making two trips to China in 1971, the first of which was in secret, to establish rapprochement between Washington and Beijing.

Kissinger met Chinese officials on behalf of Nixon at that time without telling George H.W. Bush, who was then Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, about the talks.

The US and China have been engaged in a trade conflict for the past two years and have imposed billions of dollars of tariffs on each other’s goods.

Since early 2018, the US administration has pursued a deliberate policy of attempting to hurt China’s economy in response to concerns about the shifting balance of economic power and unfair trade practices.

Washington and Beijing are also engaged in a number of other disputes, including US naval operations in the South China Sea, the US relationship with Taiwan, the Xinjiang issue and US Congress support for protesters in Hong Kong.