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International relations

Xi tells Kissinger bilateral ties are at a 'critical juncture'

Leader meets with former top US diplomat amid backlash over Hong Kong bill

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Beijing on Nov. 22 for an economic forum.   © AP

BEIJING -- The U.S. and China should enhance communication and avoid misunderstanding and misjudgment at a very important time in bilateral relations, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a meeting here Friday with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The comments -- reported by the official Xinhua News Agency the week American lawmakers passed legislation supporting democracy in Hong Kong -- indicate that Xi looks to mend fences and avoid an all-out confrontation with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration.

"Sino-U.S. relations are at a critical juncture facing some difficulties and challenges," said Xi, who urged the two countries to "promote bilateral ties to develop in the right direction."

This week saw both chambers of the U.S. Congress approve the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which allows for Hong Kong's special status under American law to be revoked if Washington concludes that the territory's autonomy has not been sufficiently respected. The bill now awaits Trump's signature.

Beijing has objected forcefully to the measure. A recent opinion piece in Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily called the bill a "vain attempt to interfere in China's internal affairs."

Xi's comments, by signaling that communication remains a priority for Beijing, aim to keep the bilateral relationship from deteriorating further.

According to Xinhua, Kissinger told Xi he had visited China nearly 100 times over the last 50 years and had witnessed huge changes in the country. The relationship has fluctuated but always advanced forward, the former diplomat said.

Trump has reportedly sought foreign policy advice from Kissinger, who played a central role in engineering the U.S.-China rapprochement of the 1970s. Kissinger previously met with Xi in China last November.

Also on Friday, Xi spoke with foreign business leaders at the 2019 New Economy Forum here, Xinhua reported.

The president asserted that the Chinese dream is by no means a dream of seeking hegemony, touching on a deep-seated American concern.

But Xi also made clear that China is still set on establishing itself as a global superpower. It does not intend to replace any power but aims to "restore the dignity and status it deserves," he said.

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