Henry Kissinger’s meeting with Xi Jinping, China’s leader, in a lavish meeting room in Beijing in July highlighted his persistent ability to position himself near centers of power over the years.
Even after turning 100, Kissinger traveled the world to meet with influential figures. He made the long journey to Beijing to meet with China’s most powerful leader just two months after his 100th birthday. Xi referred to Kissinger as an “old friend” and mentioned the historic secret visit that led to the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and China.
“Once again, China and the U.S. are at a crossroads of where to go from here, and once again, both sides need to make a choice,” Xi said, as reported by Chinese state media.
Following his roles as national security adviser and secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations, Kissinger helmed a successful business consulting firm that capitalized on his name recognition and connections with senior American and foreign officials. Many U.S. government officials would later follow a similar career path.
Critics argue that Kissinger profited from a business built off what they consider “war crimes” he committed while in office, including endorsing mass bombings by the U.S. military and violent efforts by Pakistani leaders, among others.
Kissinger continued to travel the world as a business consultant, demonstrating a sustained desire to be near powerful figures.
Elbridge Colby, a Defense Department strategist, remarked on social media that Kissinger’s philosophical character clashed with his desire to be “on the inside.” He noted that while all political figures seek recognition, Kissinger’s desire was at a different level.
A key question surrounding Kissinger’s later years is whether his ideas on foreign policy and America’s role in the world have become outdated. While he continued to advocate for friendly U.S.-China relations, many in Washington believe that a deepening rivalry with China is inevitable.
Kissinger’s proximity to power and profit was evident at his 100th birthday celebration at the New York Public Library, where he was visited by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, C.I.A. director William J. Burns, and Samantha Power, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
When asked about Blinken’s appreciation for Kissinger, the State Department deputy spokesman mentioned the “important perspective to be gained through those conversations with predecessors.”