Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State for the United States and acclaimed diplomat warned that tensions between the U.S. and China could result in a terrible war between the two powers.
Kissinger, who was an advisor to U.S. President Richard Nixon and helped to craft the 1971 thawing of relations between China and the United States, said the mix of economic, military and technological strengths of the two countries carried more risks than the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Speaking to the McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum on Global Issues, Kissinger was quoted as saying that the of the tensions with China, “the biggest problem for America, the biggest problem for the world.”
“Because if we can’t solve that, then the risk is that all over the world a kind of cold war will develop between China and the United States.”
Kissinger continued to say that while nuclear weapons were already large enough to damage the entire globe during the Cold War, advances in nuclear technology and artificial intelligence have multiplied the doomsday threat.
“For the first time in human history, humanity has the capacity to extinguish itself in a finite period of time,” Kissinger said. “We have developed the technology of a power that is beyond what anybody imagined even 70 years ago.”
Kissinger continues: “And now, to the nuclear issue is added the high tech issue, which in the field of artificial intelligence, in its essence is based on the fact that man becomes a partner of machines and that machines can develop their own judgement. So in a military conflict between high-tech powers, it’s of colossal significance.”
The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II was more one-dimensional, focused on nuclear weapons competition, said Kissinger, one of the leading strategic thinkers of the past six decades.
“The Soviet Union had no economic capacity. They had military technological capacity,” he said. “(Russia) didn’t have developmental technological capacity as China does. China is a huge economic power in addition to being a significant military power.”
Kissinger suggested that U.S. policy toward China must take a two-pronged approach: standing firm on US principles to demand China’s respect, while maintaining a constant dialogue and finding areas of cooperation.
“I’m not saying that diplomacy will always lead to beneficial results,” he said. “This is the complex task we have… Nobody has succeeded in doing it completely,” he said.