‘State murderer, brilliant strategist, master manipulator’: How the world reacted to Henry Kissinger’s death

Former US secretary of state's controversial foreign policy legacy has drawn praise and criticism around the world

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died aged 100
Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, has died at the age of 100 Credit: AP

Henry Kissinger’s death at the age of 100 has sparked reactions around the world, with his controversial legacy drawing praise and criticism.

The diplomat, best known for his time as secretary of state to Richard Nixon, left a lifelong mark on US foreign policy and continued to be involved in global affairs past his 100th birthday, visitng President Xi Jinping in July this year. 

In a brutal assessment of Mr Kissinger’s life, Rolling Stone magazine described him as a “notorious war criminal” and “state murderer”, who was responsible for the death of “every single person who died in Vietnam between autumn 1968 and the Fall of Saigon”.

The magazine’s obituary’s was headlined: “Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies.”

Rolling Stone magazine's headline Credit: Rolling Stone

American news outlets were mostly positive in their reporting, with Bloomberg describing Mr Kissinger him as a “child refugee who rose to become US secretary of state and defined American foreign policy during the 1970s with his strategies to end the Vietnam War and contain communist countries”.

CNN described him as a “dominating and polarising force in US foreign policy”, while Fox News said he was “revered and controversial, praised by supporters as a brilliant strategist and condemned by critics as a master manipulator”.

Foreign Policy Magazine also said in its obituary that Mr Kissinger was a “colossus on the world stage”, who “helped author some of the greatest triumphs - as well as some of the most tragic failures” of US foreign policy.

But in Times Square in New York, where pro-Palestinian protesters were demonstrating against the war in Gaza, cheers could be heard after an organiser announced the news.

In France, the newspaper Le Monde said Mr Kissinger was “scathing, even contemptuous, but he knew how to charm those he needed”, and used a diplomatic technique “between cynicism and seduction, brutality and skill”.

Henry Kissinger with Richard Nixon (right) Credit: AP

In China, Beijing’s foreign ministry hailed Mr Kissinger for his “historic contributions” to US-Sino relations, describing him as an “old and good friend of the Chinese people”.

Wang Wenbin, a foreign ministry spokesman, said that he “had long been concerned about and supported the development of China-US relations, visiting China more than a hundred times and making historic contributions to promote the normalisation of China-US relations”. 

The ministry added that President Xi Jinping had sent a message of condolence to Joe Biden.

The South China Morning Post focused on Mr Kissinger’s role in re-establishing diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing, and called him “unapologetic to the end” about his record in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The newspaper noted that “in recent years, he has called for an easing of tensions between Washington and Beijing”.

Meanwhile, The Economist argued that “even his detractors admitted he had a brilliant mind”, and said his preference for back-channel negotiations “suited Nixon’s taste for conspiracy” during the late 1960s and early 1970s.