Biden-Xi talks a good beginning to avoid clash, Kissinger says at forum in Singapore

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) – A virtual summit between United States President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping marked a good beginning for the world’s biggest economies to avoid a conflict, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger said.

“They now have to be followed by concrete discussions that lead in a direction both presidents have affirmed they want to pursue,” the influential US diplomat and author said via video on Wednesday (Nov 17) at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, during a conversation with Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait.

“We’re through the mountain pass, on a precipice from which you can look in both directions,” Dr Kissinger said. “And now it depends which direction is chosen.”

His comments came shortly after Mr Biden and Mr Xi met for a generally positive virtual summit, agreeing to continue talking on a range of topics even as they continue to spar over issues such as Taiwan.

The renowned diplomat, who paved the way for president Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 trip to China, said the nations must move “towards a pattern in which disputes are attempted to be mitigated, and in which they realise that a victor is not possible without a risk of destroying humanity”.

He said: “Both sides have to accept that a conflict between major technical powers of comparable capacities must not occur for the preservation of humanity.”

Dr Kissinger mentioned that the US and China should find ways to cooperate on advanced technology such as artificial intelligence, saying that a race could lead to accidents.

“The logic of cyberwarfare is to operate at a speed which is beyond human capacity, and, therefore, the temptation is to build automatic responses into weapon systems,” Dr Kissinger said.

“But if you deprive these issues of any human element, then the danger that systems might make a judgement which you didn’t foresee, and the danger of an automatic conflagration, becomes very grave.”

In separate comments at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan said China and the world must work together to boost global economic growth, vowing that Beijing will continue opening up more to foreign investment at a time when more countries are raising barriers over national security concerns.

“China can not develop in isolation of the world and nor can the world develop without China,” Mr Wang told the forum via a video link. “China will not waver in its resolve to deepen reform and expand opening up.”

The New Economy Forum is organised by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

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