It's been nearly four decades since Henry Kissinger first visited China, enticing the country to open its socialist economy to Western capitalism and helping to begin its meteoric rise. But the former U.S. secretary of state argues that, for all its growing economic and political clout, China will not dominate this century, as many have predicted.
Mr. Kissinger will make his case in Toronto in the next instalment of the Munk Debates, a series of forums that bring together top policy-makers and thinkers from around the world to discuss the leading topics of the day.
The topic for the June 17 event, to be announced Thursday, is "The 21st century will belong to China." Arguing in favour of the proposition will be Niall Ferguson, a British economic historian and author, who will be supported by David Daokui Li of Beijing's Tsinghua University School of Economics.
On the other side of the debate will be Mr. Kissinger and Fareed Zakaria, editor-at-large at Time magazine and host of his eponymous international affairs show on CNN.
"China's rise is certainly one of the big existential questions we as a country, as well as the world, are going to confront in the 21st century," said Rudyard Griffiths, who will moderate the debate. "At this point in [Mr. Kissinger's]career, as a senior global statesman, to get on a stage and also argue against the prospect of China overtaking the United States, that will be a surprise to a lot of Chinese, and Americans as well."
Mr. Kissinger, who served in the cabinet of president Richard Nixon, is arguably the most highly regarded American diplomat of the last century. The master of realpolitik, he pursued a pragmatic policy of easing tensions with the Soviet Union and fostering a warmer relationship with China, leading to Mr. Nixon's iconic 1972 visit to the country.
Mr. Ferguson, who works at both Harvard and the London School of Economics, has published numerous books, including a comprehensive history of money and banking that was turned into a television documentary. He has proposed major economic reforms, including replacing all taxes with a single huge levy on consumption. He is also writing a biography of Mr. Kissinger.
The twice-annual Munk Debates are a charitable endeavour, funded by philanthropists Peter and Melanie Munk.