- Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images
- President Donald Trump slammed previous trade deals as “one-sided and unfair” and “gave China credit” for taking advantage of the US. Trump also praised Chinese President Xi Jinping and said the two leaders had “great chemistry.” Xi appeared to provide a small first step toward negotiations with North Korea. Trump and Xi also displayed their diverging visions for Asia, as they continue to call the region by different names.
Speaking in Beijing on Thursday, US President Donald Trump emphasized his close personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and said he didn’t blame China’s leader for what he called the “one-sided and unfair” trade practices between their two countries.
“I don’t blame China,” Trump said. “Who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit.”
Instead, he blamed past US administrations for a trade deficit he said had grown “beyond anything what anybody would understand.”
Xi and Trump, who is in China as part of a 13-day tour of Asia, spent Thursday morning at an elaborate military welcome ceremony before attending bilateral and trade meetings.
Trump said the two countries were working hard to deliver a “fair and reciprocal” deal, though many of the $253 billion worth of trade deals announced Thursday were nonbinding memorandums.
Trump heaped praise on China throughout the day, saying that he had “incredibly warm” feelings toward Xi, whom he called a “very special man,” and that their relationship was a “great one.”
“There’s a very good chemistry between the two of us, believe me,” Trump said.
China sees a ‘pathway’ to peace for North Korea
- Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images
While Trump said he believed he and Xi could probably tackle all the world’s problems – “I think we can solve almost all of them and maybe all of them” – the two leaders focused on trade and North Korea in several speeches Thursday.
Xi did appear to suggest that negotiations with North Korea may be possible, but he did so without stating denuclearization as a goal the way Trump did when he spoke with the South Korean legislature on Wednesday.
“The two sides will continue to fully and strictly implement UN Security Council resolutions,” Xi said. “At the same time, the two sides commit to working toward a solution through dialogue and negotiation. We are ready to discuss with relevant parties the pathway leading to enduring peace and stability in the Peninsular and Northeast Asia.”
Trump again called on China to do more, however, saying “time is quickly running out.”
“We must act fast, and hopefully China will act faster and more effectively on this problem than anyone. China can fix this problem easily and quickly,” Trump said. “I know one thing about your president: If he works on it hard, it will happen.”
Xi and Trump spar over hegemony in Asia
- REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters
The Trump administration recently began using the term “Indo-Pacific” instead of the more traditional “Asia-Pacific” to describe the Asia region, and the shift has become particularly noticeable.
On Thursday, Xi spoke repeatedly of the need for security in the “Asia-Pacific” region, while Trump mentioned the need for a free and open “Indo-Pacific” several times.
The use of the two distinct terms is an important difference.
Repeatedly mentioning the Indo-Pacific suggests Trump’s administration is wary of China’s rise and is trying to shift away from a China-reliant Asia.
Xi also used the occasion to send his own message.
“It is important to respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, respect each other’s choice of development path,” he said, a clear shot at what China sees as the US’s interference in the South China Sea.
“We believe that China and the US are countries with important influence in the Asia Pacific,” Xi said. “As I said to the president, the Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate both China and the US.”