US President Trump
heaped praise on President Xi Jinping
of China on Thursday, saying he was confident China would help defuse the threat from North Korea
and reduce its trade deficits with the United States, which he blamed on his own predecessors, not the Chinese.
Trump, speaking in Beijing, called on Xi to redouble Chinese pressure on the North over its nuclear and missile programmes, declaring, “We have it in our power to liberate the world” from the North Korean “menace.”
While the president also vowed to redress chronic trade imbalances, he framed them as a failure of American policy, even saluting Xi for leading a country that had left the United States
“so far behind” and saying he could not blame the Chinese for taking advantage of Americans.
Trump did call on China to open up its market, but he came to Beijing without any specific proposals for doing so, preferring to celebrate a slew of American investment deals with Chinese companies, which the two sides claimed were worth more than $250 billion.
As he sat down with Xi in the Great Hall of the People, Trump instead kept the focus on personal rapport. He spoke of Xi as a friend with whom he had “great chemistry,” marvelling at the hospitality Xi had shown him, which included a full-dress military parade in Tiananmen Square and a sunset tour of the Forbidden City.
“You’re a very special man,” Trump told Xi in joint statements made before reporters at which they did not take questions.
Congratulating Xi on his consolidation of power at a recent Communist Party congress, Trump said, “Perhaps now more than ever we have an opportunity to strengthen our relationship.”
Xi did not return the favour. He made no reference to the first anniversary Wednesday of Trump’s election victory — as the leaders of Japan and South Korea did — and instead stuck largely to a familiar script in which he said China and the United States
could peacefully coexist if they respected each other’s different political systems.
“I told the president that the Pacific is big enough to accommodate both China and the United States,” Xi said. Earlier, he said the “China-US relationship now stands at a new starting point.”
Xi agreed with Trump on the need to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. He said China and the United States
should strictly enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang, but did not announce additional Chinese measures. The Trump administration is pressing China to cut off oil shipments, close down North Korean bank accounts, and send home tens of thousands of North Koreans who work in China.
The meeting came as North Korea
is striving to master the technology of developing nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit the continental United States.
But Pyongyang has also not conducted a nuclear test in nearly two months, which some analysts see as providing a diplomatic opening.
On Saturday, the United States
Navy is to conduct exercises in the Western Pacific with three aircraft carrier groups, carrying out large-scale naval maneuvers that are likely to alarm the North Korean government.
In his meeting with Xi, Trump steered clear of any mention of human-rights abuses in China, though he reaffirmed the United States’ interest in protecting the rule of law and the rights of individuals.
Still, Trump appeared satisfied with the outcome. “A great responsibility has been placed on our shoulders,” he said, looking over at the Chinese leader. “It is truly a great responsibility.” The two countries announced $253 billion in business deals, involving U.S. industrial giants such as Boeing, Honeywell and General Electric, tech companies like Qualcomm and even Goldman Sachs. But many of the deals are tentative agreements that may not be fulfilled, and they do little to address issues of market access that have long bedeviled American companies trying to break into Chinese markets.
Xi, meanwhile, stuck to carefully calibrated promises to enforce existing United Nations Security Council resolutions on the regime in Pyongyang and to ensure a denuclearised Korean peninsula. In a briefing on Thursday, Tillerson declined to say whether China had made any specific commitments despite repeated pressing from reporters.
Breaking Down the $250-Bn US-China Deals
The White House has unveiled a slew of agreements with China as the US President Donald Trump seeks to address an imbalance in trade. While Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross boasted a total of $250 billion in business deals, it’s unclear how one gets to that figure. Many of them weren’t broken out into separate valuations, while a large number were in the form of nonbinding MoUs.Here is a look: