19 October 2018
US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping arrive at a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping arrive at a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Trump blends tough talk, flattery in engaging with Xi

US President Donald Trump blended tough talk with chumminess as he engaged with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a trip to Beijing, boasting about a “very good chemistry” between the two leaders, the Wall Street Journal reports.

On Thursday, Trump spoke in remarkably conciliatory tones during joint appearances with Xi, calling China’s leader “a very special man”, the report said.

He blamed past US administrations, rather than Beijing, for what he described as a “very one-sided and unfair” trade relationship, adding, “but we’ll make it fair and it’ll be tremendous to both of us.”

While thanking Xi for his recent efforts to restrict trade and banking ties with North Korea, Trump urged further steps to press Pyongyang to halt its nuclear-weapons program.

“China can fix this problem easily and quickly,” he said. “You know one thing about your president: If he works on it hard, it will happen. There’s no doubt about it.”

Trump did include some tough talk in his pledge to tackle trade imbalances.

“We must immediately address the unfair trade practices that drive this deficit,” he said, days after data showed that China posted almost US$27 billion trade surplus with the US in October.

“We really have to look at access, forced technology transfer and the theft of intellectual property, which just by and of itself is costing the United States and its government at least 300 billion dollars a year.”

Xi kept his own statements more formal, saying friction between China and the US was unavoidable but the countries should strengthen communication and cooperation in Asia-Pacific affairs.

“I told President Trump that the Pacific Ocean is big enough for both China and the US,” Xi said.

The priority for both sides appears to have been to develop the personal connection between the two leaders during what Chinese officials called a “state-visit-plus”, the report said.

In addition to a state banquet on Thursday, Xi and his wife escorted the US first couple on a private tour of the Forbidden City with dinner on Wednesday, the first American president to receive such treatment from his Chinese counterpart.

Beijing’s strategy appears to be to flatter Trump into easing up on pressure over trade and North Korea and acknowledging China’s territorial interests and ambitions for a leading role on the world stage, the Journal noted.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Beijing that the chemistry between the two leaders allowed them to speak more plainly.

Xi had suggested he didn’t expect immediate results from UN sanctions on North Korea but believed they were having an effect, Tillerson said.

“Clearly, we have our own views of the tactics and the timing and how far to go with pressure, and that’s what we spent a lot of time exchanging views on,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that on trade, “the things that have been achieved thus far are pretty small.”

The two sides unveiled business deals they valued at more than US$250 billion, but many were already in the making or not actual contracts.

The leaders now take their competing agendas to the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Friday and Saturday.

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