After what many expected to be an awkward meeting between Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping — given recent spats between the country and the US President — Mr Trump has claimed the two leaders made “great progress.”
“I think lots of potentially very bad problems will be going away,” Mr Trump said on Friday, less than 24 hours after Mr Xi arrived at his Palm Beach home.
Mr Trump — who previously accused China of “raping” the United States — called his relationship with Mr Xi “outstanding” and said they made “tremendous progress.”
Mr Xi, his wife, and a number of advisors met with Mr Trump on Thursday and Friday to discuss trade, environmental protocol, and international policy. Top Trump advisors, including Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, were also in attendance.
In the days leading up to the summit, Mr Trump predicted the talks would be “very difficult.” The discussions, however, were largely overshadowed by Mr Trump’s surprise call for air strikes on Syria.
Mr Trump ordered the air strikes Thursday night, in response to the suspected use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
The Chinese government condemned the use of chemical weapons Friday, but did not offer support for the US strikes. Instead, China’s foreign ministry urged all sides to find a “political,” rather than military, solution to the problem. China has long voted to keep the United Nations from interfering in the conflict. Syrian President Bashar Assad recently called China, “a real friend.”
The strikes, however, could have a silver lining for Mr Trump: He was expected to pressure Mr Xi to take action on North Korea and experts say the strikes may show how serious he is.
“I suspect Xi will treat Trump’s threat against North Korea as more serious than before this, provided the behind the scenes body language does not counteract it,” Douglas H. Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The New York Times.
Mr Trump declined to answer questions about the air strikes Friday.
The two leaders also discussed China’s trade policy, which Mr Trump criticised frequently during his presidential campaign. The president has previously accused China of undervaluing its currency to boost trade, and accused the country of “stealing” American jobs.
Taking a more moderate approach, Mr Trump was not expected to present Mr Xi with his campaign promise of a 45 per cent tax on Chinese goods. The Trump administration also has not moved to formally label China a currency manipulator.
The New York Times, however, reports Mr Trump will sign a trade order targeting China soon after Mr Xi leaves. The details of the order are unknown, but it is predicted to be a block on countries — like China — that dump steel into the US market.
Mr Trump gave no indication of this move on Friday, telling reporters it was a “tremendous honour for me and all of my representative to host the president and his representatives.”
According to Chinese state media, Mr Xi told Mr Trump that, “we have a thousand reasons to get China-US relations right, and not one reason to spoil the China-US relationship.” Mr Trump reportedly accepted the leader’s invitation to visit China next year.
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