US-China tensions could lead to a conflict worse than First World War, Henry Kissinger warns

The veteran diplomat and controversial geopolitical thinker told attendees at the New Economy Forum, organized by Bloomberg Media, that tensions between Washington and Beijing could be resolved if “both sides try to overcome” their differences.

“It is far from being too late for that, because we are still in the foothills of a cold war,” he said during the conference on Thursday.

He warned, however, that de-escalation between the world’s two largest economies was “essential” in order to avoid disaster.

If conflict is permitted to run unconstrained the outcome could be even worse than it was in Europe. World War One broke out because a relatively minor crisis could not be mastered.

The former diplomat said that he hoped that ongoing trade negotiations between the US and China would facilitate broader cooperation. The trade talks are “a small beginning to a political discussion,” Kissinger noted.

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Washington and Beijing are at odds over a number of heated issues. A tit-for-tat tariff war has been exacerbated by a dispute over the South China Sea, over which Beijing claims full sovereignty. The two countries also continue to quarrel over the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. China has repeatedly accused the US of providing support to the increasingly violent demonstrations, an allegation which Washington firmly denies. This week the US Congress passed a bill aimed at monitoring human rights in the semi-autonomous territory.

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