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Chinese state media mourned the death of Henry Kissinger, the 100-year-old who was at the center of the United States’ rapprochement with China half a century ago and who last visited China just this summer.

The outpouring of praise and nostalgia for Kissinger marked a significant change in tone for China’s state-run news outlets, which have been known for their antipathy toward American governments in recent years as relations have reached their lowest point since relations were normalized in the 1970s. which was promoted by Kissinger.

“Today, this ‘old friend of the Chinese people’, who had a keen vision and comprehensive understanding of world affairs, completed his legendary life,” China News said in an obituary published shortly after it was announced that Kissinger had died at home. was released in Connecticut on Wednesday evening.

China Central Television, the state broadcaster, called Kissinger a “legendary diplomat” and a “living fossil” who witnessed the evolution of China-U.S. relations.

The news quickly became a trending topic on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, with the hashtag “Kissinger just came to China this year” racking up 56 million views within an hour of the announcement.

Henry Kissinger, who shaped world affairs under two presidents, has died at the age of 100

Kissinger had visited China more than 100 times, most recently in July, as Beijing sought to reset relations with Washington – and as Communist Party leaders looked nostalgic to the days when the elder statesman was most influential.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who declined to meet with climate envoy John F. Kerry, who was in Beijing at the same time, told Kissinger that “old friends” like him would never be forgotten.

“The Chinese people never forget their old friends, and Sino-American relations will always be linked with the name of Henry Kissinger,” Xi told Kissinger as both sat in comfortable armchairs at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. Noting that Kissinger had just celebrated his 100th birthday and had visited China more than 100 times, Xi said the July visit was of “special significance,” state media reported at the time.

This came after Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, looked back on the 1970s. “US policy toward China requires the diplomatic wisdom of Kissinger and the political courage of Nixon,” Wang reportedly said.

Kissinger, who served as secretary of state and national security adviser under the Nixon and Ford administrations, played a central role in efforts to normalize relations between Washington and Beijing in the 1970s.

This began in 1971 when, on a trip to Pakistan, he pretended to be ill to shake off the press service and secretly fly to Beijing where he met with Prime Minister Zhou Enlai.

The main issue – then as now – was the status of Taiwan, as the United States recognized the nationalist Kuomintang, which had fled to the island after its defeat in the civil war to the Communist Party in 1949, as China’s sole government.

That trip, still referred to by Chinese as the “Handshake Across the Pacific,” laid the foundation for President Richard M. Nixon’s historic trip the following year, the first visit by an American president to China since the founding of the People’s Republic.

The result was the “Shanghai Communiqué,” in which both China and the United States agreed to work toward full normalization of relations. The United States also recognized that “Taiwan is a part of China” and that once this principle was established, neither country would alter Taiwan’s quasi-independent status.

It took another seven years – and two more presidents – but the two countries officially recognized each other in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was president.

Since those early days, Kissinger has met five successive Chinese leaders: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi, earning him the nickname “old friend of the Chinese people.”

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