Donald Trump's China visit: Xi Jinping's political star is ascendant; North Korea and trade dominate talks

On the anniversary of his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election, US president Donald Trump on Wednesday reached Beijing on his first visit to China.

This was Trump's third stop in his five-nation Asia tour.

While a foreign tour by a US president is always keenly followed by the international community, his trip to China is considered significant on many counts.

The visit comes just two weeks after Xi Jinping was elected as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China for the second time. More significantly, Xi is now reportedly the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, after his philosophy “Thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for new era” was added to the constitution.

Time magazine established the significance of Trump’s China visit in just one simple headline: “President Trump meets world's most powerful man in Beijing.”

The US president has long been considered the world's most powerful man.

So a well-respected magazine such as Time giving that title to the leader of China underlies the shift in the balance of power between the two nations.

Trump’s larger trip to the Asia Pacific region was always being seen through the prism of China’s rise as a regional power.

On 4 November, The Wall Street Journal called Trump’s five-nation tour as the most important by a US president in the last 25 years.

In a region threatened by China’s bid for “regional hegemony”, The Wall Street Journal noted that Trump’s five-nation tour highlights US' commitment towards Asia.

US president Donald trump with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday. Twitter @realDonaldTrump

US president Donald trump with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday. Twitter @realDonaldTrump

North Korea crisis

North Korea crisis, which has been lingering since April, as well as bilateral trade, was always expected to be on top of Trump’s agenda. China is one of the two neighbouring countries with which North Korea has a close relationship: The other being Russia. This puts Beijing at the centre of the crisis.

As noted by Deutsche Walle, while Beijing does not approve of a military escalation in the region, Pyongyang serves as a perfect buffer between itself and South Korea.

US is an important stakeholder in the region as it boasts of a significant military presence in South Korea and Japan. North Korea has also repeatedly threatened military action against the US and its allies Japan and South Korea, if provoked.

After his interaction with Xi, Trump said,” Our meeting this (Thursday) morning in front of my representatives and your representatives was excellent, discussing North Korea. And I do believe there's a solution to that as you do.”

China’s importance in resolving the issue can be gauged by this statement of Trump,” We must act fast. And hopefully China will act faster and more effectively on this problem than anyone.”

Bilateral trade to dominate talks

China is in an advantageous position with the US when it comes to bilateral trade. According to the US census bureau, the country has a trade deficit of $273 billion with China, which has long been a bone of contention between the trading partners.

Washington accused Beijing of backsliding of market-opening promises, and Trump said last week that the US trade deficit with China is "so bad that it's embarrassing."

The visit came in the backdrop of the Trump administration raising import duties on Chinese aluminum foil, stainless steel, and plywood in a bid to re-balance the trade deficit. The Trump administration is also investigating whether Beijing improperly pressured foreign companies to hand over technology.

However, Trump seems to be unprepared for discussing trade. AP quoted the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, William Zarit, who expressed concern that Trump’s focus on trade in goods would neglect "structural issues." Zarit said those include limits on access to finance, healthcare, and other industries.

In a volte-face from his presidential campaigning days, where he slammed China for bring a “currency manipulator”, Trump refused to criticise Xi over the trade imbalance, The Washington Post reported.

Instead he gave China credit. “I don’t blame China. Who can blame a country that is able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit,” Trump was quoted as saying. In the end, China and the US signed deals worth more than $250 billion after the talks in Beijing.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Nov 09, 2017 17:51 PM

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