Kissinger had a consequential, controversial impact across Asia

From China to Bangladesh, the U.S. statesman's policies left a huge mark in the region.
By RFA
2023.11.30
Kissinger had a  consequential, controversial impact across  Asia Chinese leader Mao Zedong shakes hands with Henry Kissinger, the U.S. secretary of state and assistant to President Richard Nixon, in Beijing, Nov. 12, 1973.
Photo: AP

Henry Kissinger, who died on Nov. 30 at the age of 100, was an influential diplomat and strategist who wielded major influence on U.S. foreign policy for more than five decades.

President Nixon's National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, the chief North Vietnamese negotiator at the Paris peace talks, speak to the media in Paris, June 13, 1973. (Michel Lipchitz/AP)
President Nixon's National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, the chief North Vietnamese negotiator at the Paris peace talks, speak to the media in Paris, June 13, 1973. (Michel Lipchitz/AP)

Credited for arms negotiations with the Soviet Union and shuttle diplomacy in pursuit of Middle East peace, Kissinger had a great impact on events across Asia. 

Presidential advisor Henry Kissinger tells newsmen at the “Western White House” in San Clemente, Calif., that the Cambodia issue is being discussed with Chinese envoy Huang Chen, July 6, 1973. (AP)
Presidential advisor Henry Kissinger tells newsmen at the “Western White House” in San Clemente, Calif., that the Cambodia issue is being discussed with Chinese envoy Huang Chen, July 6, 1973. (AP)

He was a central figure in President Richard Nixon’s early 1970s U.S. diplomatic opening with China and won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the end of the Vietnam War.

President Richard Nixon and Ambassador Agha Hilaly of Pakistan huddle over a newspaper account as they discuss the devastation in Pakistan, at the White House on Nov. 23, 1970. Henry Kissinger [right] is also in attendance. (AP)
President Richard Nixon and Ambassador Agha Hilaly of Pakistan huddle over a newspaper account as they discuss the devastation in Pakistan, at the White House on Nov. 23, 1970. Henry Kissinger [right] is also in attendance. (AP)

Critics condemn his role in the bombing of Cambodia and Laos, his backing of Pakistan's military despite its 1971 campaign of killings and mass rape in East Pakistan, the future Bangladesh. 

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger [left], Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Deng Xiaoping and White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld admire the banquet site at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 25, 1974. (AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger [left], Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Deng Xiaoping and White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld admire the banquet site at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 25, 1974. (AP)

They say he greenlighted Indonesia's seizure of former Portuguese colony East Timor in 1975 that led to a quarter century of brutal occupation.

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger confers with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheik Mujibur Rahman in Dacca, Bangladesh, Oct. 30, 1974. (AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger confers with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheik Mujibur Rahman in Dacca, Bangladesh, Oct. 30, 1974. (AP)

Kissinger, who served as secretary of state and national security adviser in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, led arms control talks with the Soviet Union, and worked to improve relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors through intensive shuttle diplomacy. 

Presidential advisor Henry Kissinger chats with Pakistan President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan in Rawalpindi, July 8, 1971. (AP)
Presidential advisor Henry Kissinger chats with Pakistan President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan in Rawalpindi, July 8, 1971. (AP)

He visited China more than 100 times, and met every leader, and advised at least 10 U.S. presidents on foreign policy.

U.S. President Richard M. Nixon congratulates Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on his 1973 Nobel Peace Prize award, at the White House in Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, 1973. (AP)
U.S. President Richard M. Nixon congratulates Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on his 1973 Nobel Peace Prize award, at the White House in Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, 1973. (AP)

His first, secret, visit to Beijing in 1971 opened the door to diplomatic relations between China and the United States seven years later.

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is seen at the State Department in Washington, D.C., after the announcement that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, Oct. 16, 1973. (AP)
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is seen at the State Department in Washington, D.C., after the announcement that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, Oct. 16, 1973. (AP)

Improved U.S.-China relations gave Kissinger leverage against the the two countries' shared Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union, leading to arms control treaties between Washington and Moscow.

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger greets Indonesia Foreign Minister Adam Malik during a State Department luncheon in Malik’s honor in Washington, D.C., June 29, 1976. (AP)
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger greets Indonesia Foreign Minister Adam Malik during a State Department luncheon in Malik’s honor in Washington, D.C., June 29, 1976. (AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kissinger’s wisdom “led presidents, secretaries of state, national security advisors, and other leaders from both parties to seek his counsel.”

Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki gesticulates as he talks with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Tokyo at Miki's official residence, Dec. 8, 1975. (Koichiro Morita/AP)
Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki gesticulates as he talks with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Tokyo at Miki's official residence, Dec. 8, 1975. (Koichiro Morita/AP)

Amid widespread mourning by Chinese state media and social media users, Xi and other top leaders sent condolences to Kissinger's family.

A waitress pours a drink for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at a banquet in Beijing in his honor, Nov. 9, 1985. (Neal Ulevich/AP)
A waitress pours a drink for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at a banquet in Beijing in his honor, Nov. 9, 1985. (Neal Ulevich/AP)

"Dr. Kissinger was a good old friend of the Chinese people. He is a pioneer and builder of Sino-U.S. relations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular news conference.

Presidential advisor Henry Kissinger [right] reports to President Richard Nixon [center] on his four days of talks in Paris with North Vietnam's negotiators at breakfast in the family dining room at the White House, Oct. 13, 1972. (John Duricka/AP)
Presidential advisor Henry Kissinger [right] reports to President Richard Nixon [center] on his four days of talks in Paris with North Vietnam's negotiators at breakfast in the family dining room at the White House, Oct. 13, 1972. (John Duricka/AP)

"China and the U.S. should carry forward Kissinger's strategic vision, political courage and diplomatic wisdom... and promote the sound, stable and sustainable development of China-U.S. relations," Wang added.

Xi called Kissinger "a world-renowned strategist, and a good old friend of the Chinese people.”

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger greets China’s Premier Zhou Enlai before the start of their meeting in Beijing, Nov. 12, 1973. (Harvey Georges/AP)
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger greets China’s Premier Zhou Enlai before the start of their meeting in Beijing, Nov. 12, 1973. (Harvey Georges/AP)

The Shanghai Communique paved the way for diplomatic normalization and trade relations between the U.S. and China.

China’s President Jiang Zemin [left] talks to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at a luncheon address to U.S. business groups in New York, Oct. 23, 1995. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
China’s President Jiang Zemin [left] talks to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at a luncheon address to U.S. business groups in New York, Oct. 23, 1995. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

His last trip to Beijing featured a meeting with President Xi Jinping in July, shortly after Kissinger’s 100th birthday.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 22, 2019. (Jason Lee/Pool via AP)
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 22, 2019. (Jason Lee/Pool via AP)

"Half a century ago, he made a historic contribution to the normalization of China-U.S. relations with brilliant strategic vision, benefiting both countries as well as changing the world,” Xi said in response to Kissinger's death.

Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, July 20, 2023. (China Daily via Reuters)
Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, July 20, 2023. (China Daily via Reuters)

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