Kissinger tells Darien audience about state of China
DARIEN -- Henry Kissinger says China's economy may be booming, but that doesn't mean that the awakening Asian giant is without its challenges.
In fact, many of the hundreds of millions of have-nots are beginning to assert themselves, demanding a piece of the pie that is mostly eaten by people in the country's wealthy metropolitan areas.
Seeing the economic engine slowed by civil unrest or rampant inflation would spell trouble for the rest of the world, Kissinger, secretary of state under former U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, told about 60 guests Thursday night assembled on the lawn at the home of Robert and Jan Dilenschneider. The audience included Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Bridgeport Diocese Bishop William Lori, Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia, Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei and former WWE CEO and former U.S senate candidate Linda McMahon.
"If the economy fails or they have a civil war, I think the impact on the world would be huge," said Kissinger, 88, sitting in a carved wood chair on a dais with Long Island Sound serving as a backdrop.
He recently wrote "On China," published by The Penguin Press, which details his experiences with the country and its future, warned that the Chinese economy always seems to be on the verge of runaway inflation, forcing its government to enact curbs to control economic growth.
Kissinger, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, told the audience about how the United States quietly communicated with the Chinese after learning the Soviet Union and China were on the edge of conflict over border confrontations. He regaled them about his experiences -- sometimes humorous -- during the early years of dealing with Chinese, and how the United States and China stumbled into the "ping pong diplomacy" that warmed relations between the two countries.
A trailblazer in opening relations between the United States and China in the early 1970s, Kissinger said China has turned itself into a global economic force in only three decades, but at a cost.
"At any one point in time, there are 100 million Chinese on the roads looking for work," he said, adding that they are treated like migrant workers in their country. "This creates potential for enormous instability. There are thousands of protests, and the Chinese are concerned that it could emerge into one event."
But Kissinger, chairman of Kissinger Associates Inc., an international consulting firm, said the Chinese believe problems lead to other problems, requiring long-term solutions.
"We tend to think every problem has a solution in a short period of time," he said, leading to a difficult dialogue between the two countries. "For the Chinese, every issue is trench warfare. There are no little issues."
But the dialogue and cooperation must continue, Kissinger said, urging that a cold war mentality must be avoided, even as a wave of anti-China sentiment appears to be building among some Americans and even among some presidential hopefuls.
"Let's not talk ourselves into an automatic confrontation," he said, as Chinese influence continues to grow around the world.
Like many U.S. companies, Terex sees China as an important business partner and has several businesses in China, manufacturing construction equipment, much of it for the Chinese market.
"We can't view ourselves as American business people. We must be global business people," DeFeo said, crediting Kissinger for his role in opening up China to the United States. "Clearly, Dr. Kissinger is an American treasure."
New York City residents Amy and Trace Murphy came to the event ready to listen to Kissinger and perhaps exchange a few words after listening to a recording of much of his book.
"It's very timely. It's very interesting to listen to an insider's point of view," said Amy Murphy, crediting Nixon, maligned for his transgressions, for realizing the political importance of China and its economic potential. "Nixon was progressive. He definitely was forward thinking in certain areas."