An ‘incredible welcome ceremony’ for Trump but few results
Donald Trump enjoyed his treatment in Beijing. He changed the main image on his Twitter account to a photo of himself and Xi Jinping standing together with their wives, and tweeted the following on November 9:
15:08 Beijing time: President Xi, thank you for such an incredible welcome ceremony. It was a truly memorable and impressive display!
21:58 Beijing time: In the coming months and years ahead I look forward to building an even STRONGER relationship between the United States and China.
Both tweets are accompanied by short videos that are similar in style and content to Xinhua News Agency productions.
What was the result of Trump’s two day stay in Beijing? It’s perhaps best told in a series of headlines, abridged for easy reading:
- Trump praised China and blamed past U.S. administrations for the trade deficit, but while he was having a “beyond terrific” time, human rights lawyers faced harassment and house arrest. —The Guardian
- The American president placed his bets on flattering Xi Jinping, producing no visible structural changes. Trump said he was looking to President Xi Jinping to “do something” about America’s opioid epidemic, but China’s online opioid bazaar is booming. —The New York Times (paywall)
- Air Force One took off from Beijing leaving behind nice optics but few gains on trade or North Korea. The $250 billion worth of deals announced by the U.S. administration feature little of substance — many are “memorandums of understanding…with few details, rather than contracts.” Another example of hype is that the Boeing China order hawked by Trump is said to be mostly old news. —Bloomberg
- Taiwan is the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-US ties, Xi Jinping told Trump. —Reuters
- Trump and Xi took no questions at an event on Thursday billed as a news briefing, as the American president cooperated with Beijing’s sweeping efforts to control the message of his heavily choreographed visit. —Associated Press
- Trump has given Xi Jinping a pass on the South China Sea. —Quartz
- While Trump was in Beijing, the People’s Daily reported that China has plans to test launch a Long March rocket in the South China Sea soon, for commercial purposes.
So the visit went smoothly and media reports talk of a bromance between Xi and Trump. But the bros may not be able to maintain the bonhomie:
- The Economist says (paywall) that while Xi and Trump look friendly now, anti-U.S. feeling is stirring in China, and that “the anti-American strain now seems to run from the top of the Chinese state (Messrs Xi and Wang [Huning 王沪宁]) to the bottom (Xinhua and internet trolls).”
- In the Washington Post, John Pomfret has published an open letter to Xi Jinping, which warns that “a backlash is brewing against your country in the United States, and it goes well beyond Trump,” and many of Pomfret’s colleagues, “even those from the Democratic Party, are in complete agreement with Trump’s former aide, Stephen K. Bannon, that the United States is in an economic war with China and that Americans have done far too much to facilitate your nation’s rise.”