Trump in the China shop

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Donald Trump goes to China

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania spent many hours in Beijing’s Forbidden City on November 8, hosted in grand style by Xi Jinping 习近平 and his wife, Peng Liyuan 彭丽媛.

  • The visit included a tea-drinking session, Peking opera performances, and Trump trying to pick up a solid gold antique urn. CCTV has a video.
  • Trump’s granddaughter Arabella sang and recited poetry in Mandarin during the tea session.
  • The two presidents and their wives dined inside the Forbidden City. CNN says this was the first time a foreign leader has been hosted for dinner at the Forbidden City since 1949.

Coverage worth noting:

There are hundreds of hot takes and commentaries on the visit. Here a few recommendations:

  • Veteran journalist and China-watcher Orville Schell is accompanying the Trump team on its tour of Asia, and is writing a diary on ChinaFile. Yesterday’s installment covered the second day of the trip, in South Korea. Schell notes that “President Trump has stuck to the script handed him, done a reasonably good job, and seems to be coming away for our flight to Beijing tomorrow with a deeper conviction than ever of the importance of Japan and Korea to the U.S.’s Asian alliance against not only North Korea, but, in a far less explicit way, China.”
  • The New York Times says (paywall) that American business executives are frustrated and expect few outcomes from the visit, which is focused on individual deals rather than long-term trade agreements.
  • The Times also has a video (paywall) showing the contrast between Trump’s China-bashing rhetoric and his recent effusive praise of Xi Jinping.
  • An announcement from JD.com timed for the Trump visit says the company — China’s second-largest ecommerce player — intends to buy $2 billion worth of American goods, according to Bloomberg.
  • Bloomberg also reports that the “White House expects to announce upwards of $250 billion in business deals in China this week,” but that “many of the deals are expected be in the form of nonbinding memorandums of understanding, not contracts.”
  • CNBC has the full list of the 29 business executives joining Trump in Beijing.

Xi Jinping personality cult watch

A heightened propaganda focus on the personality and life story of Xi Jinping began almost as soon as he took over leadership of the Communist Party in 2012. While it is a long way from the near deification of Mao Zedong while he was alive, some observers have criticized the constant focus in the Chinese media on Xi as a personality cult.

  • A director of the Central Party School’s academic department “said the respect and love’ ordinary Chinese felt for Xi was ‘natural’ and ‘heartfelt’ and bore no similarities to a cult of personality,” according to Reuters.
  • A dozen high-ranking provincial officials have been chauffeured to a rural county in northern China to draw inspiration from a tree planted by President Xi Jinping eight years ago,” reports the South China Morning Post.
  • Six newspaper front pages show the rise of Xi Jinping in the Washington Post.
  • Chinese authorities marked Journalists’ Day on November 8 “by reminding its 228,000 reporters of their duties as propaganda workers and to promote the country’s achievements in its ‘new era,’ a centerpiece of President Xi Jinping’s national ideology,” according to the South China Morning Post.
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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and currently edits SupChina and its daily newsletter.