CHINESE President Xi Jinping has told his United States counterpart Donald Trump that he wants “win-win cooperation” over major issues concerning the relationship between the two superpowers: namely trade and North Korea.
At the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday, Trump told Xi that he believes there is a solution to the situation on the Korean peninsula while emphasising it was “too bad” that previous US administrations allowed trade to get out of kilter.
In a show of the importance China puts on Trump’s first official visit, Thursday morning’s welcoming ceremony outside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People overlooking Tiananmen Square was broadcast live on state television – unprecedented treatment for a visiting leader.
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) November 9, 2017
Trump and Xi hit it off at their first meeting in April at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and continued their “bromance” on Wednesday with an afternoon of sightseeing together with their wives. However, deep divisions persist over trade and North Korea.
And while Xi is riding high after consolidating power at a twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress last month, Trump comes to China saddled with low public approval ratings and dogged by investigations into Russian links to his election campaign.
Trump has ratcheted up his criticism of China’s massive trade surplus with the United States – calling it “embarrassing” and “horrible” last week – and has accused Beijing of unfair trade practices, fuelling worries of increased tension between the world’s two largest trading countries.
For its part, China says US restrictions on Chinese investments in the United States and on high-tech exports need to be addressed.
Trump railed against China’s trade practices during the 2016 US presidential campaign and threatened to take action once in office. But he has since held back on any major trade penalties, making clear he was doing so to give Beijing time to make progress reining in North Korea.
— China Daily (@ChinaDailyUSA) November 9, 2017
A US official said both sides are “in sync” about wanting to minimise friction during the visit and recreate the positive tone of the Mar-a-Lago summit.
Trump is principally pressing China to tighten the screws further on North Korea and at least modest progress is hoped for, although there are no immediate signs of a major breakthrough, the official said.
Trump was not expected to put much emphasis in his talks with Xi on thorny issues like the disputed South China Sea and self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as its own, although the two presidents’ aides may deal with those matters privately.
China has repeatedly pushed back at suggestions it should be doing more to rein in North Korea, which does about 90 percent of its trade with China, saying it is fully enforcing UN sanctions and that everyone has a responsibility to lower tensions and get talks back on track.
Trump used some of his toughest language yet against North Korea in a wide-ranging address in Seoul on Wednesday that lodged specific accusations of chilling human rights abuses, although he offered no evidence to support the accusations.
He also called on countries around the world to isolate Pyongyang by denying it “any form of support, supply or acceptance”.
There was no immediate public mention of North Korea from either Trump or Xi as they wrapped up their festivities on Wednesday at the Forbidden City, where Xi gave Trump the rare honour of a personal tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
On behalf of @FLOTUS Melania and I, THANK YOU for an unforgettable afternoon and evening at the Forbidden City in Beijing, President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan. We are looking forward to rejoining you tomorrow morning! https://t.co/ma0F7SHbVU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 8, 2017
Twitter is blocked in China, and his use of the service prompted many people to comment on Chinese social media how he managed to evade China’s tough Internet controls. Many people use VPNs to skirt the restrictions.
Chinese state media praised the tone of the initial get-together on Thursday, part of what China has promised will be a “state visit plus” for Trump.
“Trump seems to be pragmatic on his Beijing policy, and has no interest in ideological diplomacy. He hasn’t used the issue of human rights to make trouble for China so far, and this means the Sino-US relationship can focus on substantive matters,” influential tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial.
Additional reporting by Reuters