SPIEGEL: When President Barack Obama took office, he tried to reach out to China. But lately the Chinese-American debate has focused on controversies — arguments at the World Climate Conference in Copenhagen, fierce debates about the Chinese exchange rate or the cool reception Obama received during his visit to China.
Kissinger: Obama would like to improve relations with China. China also wants to improve relations with the United States. What is not happening is finding a grammar for the dialogue, and part of this is a cultural problem. The Americans look at foreign policy as a series of pragmatic issues, partly because every problem that has been recognized as a problem in America has been soluble. So, we deal with the Chinese on a series of specific issues.
SPIEGEL: When China becomes involved in other countries, they seem to only be concerned with business interests or natural resources. Unlike America, Beijing has not yet developed ideological missionary tendencies.
Kissinger: Americans believe that you can alter people by conversion, and that everybody in the world is a potential American. The Chinese also believe that their values are universal, but they do not believe that you can convert to becoming a Chinese unless you are born into it.