Diplomatic Eye: EP-05

US-China Relation: Kissinger style Diplomacy and Lessons for Nepal

The US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently released data showing that US-China product trade hit a record high in 2022. The total value of imports and exports climbed overall by 2.5 percent over the previous year to reach US$690.6 billion, breaking the previous record of US$658.8 billion set in 2018. Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, these nations were engaged in a trade war.

Despite the absence of official ties between the US and China, Henry Kissinger made clandestine travels to Beijing in 1971 to assist in organizing a trip for the US president in office at the time, Richard Nixon.

As he took the oath of office on January 20, 1969, Nixon accepted accountability for the Vietnam War. For him to be successful as president, he recognized that an honorable conclusion to this war was necessary.

The communist North Vietnam, supported by the Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam, supported by the United States, fought each other in the Vietnam War (1955–1975). French colonial rule and an independence movement led by communist leader Ho Chi Minh were the causes of the deadly struggle.

 US-China Relations in Transition

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

On April 6, 1971, a Chinese ping-pong team invited the American team to visit China, allowing journalists to enter since 1949. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger secretly visited China, and China received the permanent Security Council seat after UN recognition.

Nixon Visit to China

In February 1972, President Richard Nixon traveled to China for eight days. While there, he visited Chairman Mao and signed the Shanghai Communiqué with Premier Zhou Enlai. The communiqué paved the way for better ties between the United States and China by giving China and the United States a forum to discuss contentious matters, particularly Taiwan. However, during most of the decade, normalization of relations between the two nations advanced slowly.

Arrangements and the One-China Policy

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the US cut normal connections with Taiwan and granted China diplomatic recognition in 1979, while recognizing the One-China policy. Congress authorized the Taiwan Relations Act in April, allowing trade and cultural ties to maintain, despite requiring Taipei protective weapons.

Since then Chinese-American relations have gone through numerous ups and downs. In 1984, Reagan visited China, granting permission for military hardware. The U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000 established permanent trading partners and China joined the World Trade Organization. In 2008, China overtook Japan as the largest holder of U.S. debt, becoming the second-largest economy globally.

Henry Kissinger has invented ‘triangle diplomacy’ as a technique of managing ties between the rival communist nations, the Soviet Union and China, during the Vietnam War (1955–1975).

The Main Issues of US-China Conflict

US-China trade war

In July 2018, US-China trade war escalated. New tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $34 billion were imposed by the Trump administration. A 25% import tax would be applied on more than 800 Chinese goods from the industrial and transportation sectors, as well as items like televisions and medical equipment. China responded by imposing its own tariffs on more than 500 American goods. The retaliation, which was estimated to be worth $34 billion, targeted products like beef, dairy, fisheries, and soybeans.

Huawei Case:

In December 2018, Huawei Executive MengWanzhou was detained in Canada upon the US request, leading to extradition requests. Chinese officials imprisoned two Canadians in reprisal, calling Meng’s detention a “serious political incident.” Eventually, in September 2021, Meng and American prosecutors reached a settlement, allowing her to return to China. Likewise, the Chinese government also released the two Canadians.

Huawei filed a second complaint against the US for limiting federal agencies’ use of its technology. The Trump administration lobbied other countries against Huawei’s 5G network use, fearing Chinese spying. Biden and Xi met in Indonesia to reduce tensions and resume contact.

USA and China semiconductor War

In the views of IT Expert Ritu Raj Lamsal, who is also an academician, for the development of cutting-edge technology including cellphones, computers and military hardware, semiconductors are essential. The world’s number one producer of semiconductors is currently the United States. However, it is worried about China’s advancement in this sector and strives to keep a competitive edge.

US and China’s semiconductor competition centers on US-China security concerns, leading to export restrictions and investment in their respective industries. The ongoing battle for global semiconductor dominance is expected to persist.

Here are some of the specific reasons as said by Mr. Lamsal on why the US is trying to prevent China from becoming a leader in the semiconductor industry:

  1. As China’s military depends more and more on semiconductors, the US is worried that China may leverage its own semiconductor industry to create more sophisticated weaponry.


  1. The US is also worried that China would take advantage of the global economy by gaining an advantage in the semiconductor business. If China were to become a significant supplier of semiconductors, it might be able to control market prices or limit access to the technology.


  1. Finally, the US is worried about how China’s expanding technological superiority may affect its own national security. China will have access to the most cutting-edge technologies if it excels in the semiconductor sector. In the event of a future battle with the US, China might benefit from this.


In this context, Henry Kissinger, a former US secretary of state, recently visited China and captured the interest of the entire globe. China appeared to be pleased with their old buddy-Kissinger- but displeased with the current American administration.

Global Times editorial of July 22, 2023 stated that the US has devalued pragmatism and logic towards China, leading to limited manoeuvre in US-China relations. Henry Kissinger, 100, remains crucial in fostering stability and preventing confrontations, demonstrating the US’s lack of successors and reliable communication channels.

Who is Henry Kissinger?

Dr. Henry Kissinger is a renowned and well-respected academician and an international policy expert.

After serving in the US Army during World War II, Henry Kissinger spent twenty years as a history and government professor at Harvard University. He advised numerous previous American presidents on foreign policy while serving as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, respectively. Among other honors, he was given the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Medal of Liberty. On China and the World Order are some of many books and essays he has written on foreign affairs and diplomacy. Currently, he serves as chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc., a global consulting company.

What is Henry Kissinger’s Style Diplomacy?

According to political science, Henry Kissinger invented triangle diplomacy as a technique of managing ties between the rival communist nations, the Soviet Union and China, during the Vietnam War (1955–1975). Despite China’s admiration for Kissinger’s diplomatic technique in the current setting, things are different.

Stephen Roach, who is also a faculty member at Yale University writes in the Financial Review that the current politicized, individualized diplomacy is still preferred to a more institutionalized strategy. What worked fifty years ago no longer holds true. For both nations, the situation is very different because China is now a serious rival to the existing hegemony. More is required for conflict settlement than a modern-day Nixon visiting China. Kissinger was praised by top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi, who called him “an old friend,” for having played “an irreplaceable role” in fostering greater understanding between the two nations. Wang was cited as remarking during the discussion that “US policies toward China require Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom and Nixon-style political courage.”

Nevertheless, Kissinger’s recent visit to China in his personal capacity shows symbolic meaning rather than substantive achievements.

Kissinger’s Nepal Connection and Learning Lessons for Nepal

In 1985, Dr. Kissinger visited Nepal and spoke at the Nepal Council of World Affairs (NCWA), where he praised his influence on world politics and urged US-Nepal relations to improve per capita aid disparities between Nepal and Bangladesh, according to Prof. Mohan Prasad Lohani, who was the President of NCWA.

Prof. Lohani recalls that Dr. Kissinger advised Nepal to intensify lobbying efforts to influence American congressmen to increase aid for LDCs like Nepal, addressing the ongoing US-Soviet rivalry and advocating for balance of power politics in international relations.

In a conversation with me, Prof Lohani who is also the former Ambassador of Nepal to Bangladesh reveals that Ministers, legislators, top government officials, academics, intellectuals, and members of the media made up the large audience that attended Dr. Kissinger’s lecture, which was organized exclusively by the Nepal Council of World Affairs.

Country like Nepal can learn numerous things from Kissinger’s life and work. Some of the takeaways are mentioned here.

  1. Learn from your glorious history

Nepali political as well as diplomatic leaders often forget and ignore their ancestors’ glorious contributions in nation building. At the time of euphoria, they often do this.

Kissinger in his book entitled ‘World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History, writes these lines about Nepal:  “For centuries, Nepal skillfully balanced its diplomatic posture between the ruling dynasties in China and those in India—offering letters and gifts that were interpreted as tribute in China but recorded as evidence of equal exchanges in Nepal, then holding out a special tie with China as a guarantee of Nepal’s independence vis-à-vis India.”

Statesmanship was felt and seasoned diplomats in the past were champions in maintaining balanced bilateral and multilateral relations in bygone days. This shows that things were much better in the past. I fervently urge that Henry Kissinger’s comments on Nepal’s past non-aligned and impartial diplomacy be considered still important and relevant in the current circumstances.

  1. Promote high-end tourism in Nepal

Nepal does have two options for tourism promotion. Either it has to focus on volume based tourism compromising quality or has to give priority on value based tourism with quality assurance. The latter would contribute a lot in fostering Nepali economy.

Diplomacy learns from symbolic meanings, as seen in Dr. Kissinger’s visit to Tiger Tops Forest Lodge in Chitwan National Park. Nepal’s high-profile wildlife tourism attracts celebrities like Jimmy Carter, Brizensky, Kissinger, Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Martina Hingis, Hillary Clinton, William Alexander, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Lisa Choegyal, a writer and sustainable tourism expert, shared that Dr. Kissinger’s group members participated in an elephant safari in Chitwan but he couldn’t get into the elephant’s saddle. She also confirmed that Hillary Clinton and Chelsea went on a jungle safari with the same elephant, Shumsher Bahadur, nine years later.

Lisa took a two-hour game drive in the western part of the national park with a courteous and engaging politician, who partially listened to his serious lecture.

When she turned around, she discovered Dr. Kissinger a powerful political and diplomatic figure who excels at creating expansive visions of peaceful world. Apparently, his vision has been reflected in the history and country like Nepal needs to view the world and the neighbors through long-term strategic lens.

  1. Age is just a number in Conflict resolutions

Former Ambassador of Nepal to France Mohan Krisha Shrestha believes that US-China relations may not be resolved immediately, but regular diplomatic engagement is crucial for maintaining international peace, stability, and economic growth. President Xi Jing Ping visited Dr. Kissinger, a centenarian, while US Government Ministers were unable to meet with him. The US has announced the Indo-Pacific Strategy, QUAD, and AUKUS to maintain dominance, while China has launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to improve connectivity.

Ambassador Shrestha believes that high class diplomats like Dr. Kissinger can contribute greatly even in their personal lives to sustaining favorable relations between the United States and China. Even at the ripe old age of a hundred, Dr. Kissinger made a trip to China to demonstrate how eager and concerned he is to see both nations collaborate for global peace and stability.

  1. Enhance your Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) in Leadership and Diplomacy

Among Kissinger’s numerous well-known works are Diplomacy, World Order, On China, The White House Years 1968–1972, The Age of A.I., and Leadership. In 1951 and 1954, respectively, he graduated from Harvard University with an MA and a PhD.

Major political figures in Nepal undervalue and disregard academic credentials and professional experience in politics and diplomacy. Because they lack the culture to excel, the majority of Nepali politicians and diplomats (political appointees) are ignorant about domestic and foreign issues. Instead, in order to make their speech engaging, they frequently exaggerate the issues using their limited expertise and provide additional humorous, false facts. Things definitely get worse, especially in diplomatic interactions with counterparts, when academic credentials, publications, and achievements are not taken into consideration when making appointments of diplomats.


Experts believe that things are getting complex if two countries do not timely realize the consequences of the confrontations. Dipesh Karki, the Assistant Professor at Kathmandu University School of Management states, The US has expanded its global influence through monitoring programs and technology, leveraging US-based internet companies’ large market share. Chinese businesses pose a threat to US economic dominance and geopolitical might. The US is concerned that allowing Chinese firms like Huawei access to its market may expose it to Chinese state espionage. In response, the US disrupted Huawei’s supply chains using Google, resulting in the discontinuation of Android patches after May 19, 2019. The internet dispute may also affect Nepal, where Five G Spectrum Infrastructure is undecided on using Chinese technology.

Kissinger rightly noted that for centuries, Nepal successfully maintained a diplomatic balance between the dynasties in power in China and India by offering letters and gifts that were perceived as tribute in China but were recorded as proof of equal exchanges in Nepal. Nepal also held out the prospect of a special relationship with China as a guarantee of its independence from India. Prior to steadily promoting and putting into reality its nonpartisan foreign policy, Nepal should first clear up the domestic political and administrative tangle. Additionally, it must create an environment that encourages the opening of value-based tourist locations where international disputes can be resolved.

With this, let me conclude that the US-China confrontation will definitely not be a showcase of military power and might, but rather focus on digital supremacy with an upper hand on technology. Time shall decide.