China is pulling out all the stops to give a “state visit-plus” welcome to US President Donald Trump when he arrives Beijing on Wednesday on his maiden trip as Beijing seeks to avert any semblance of friction with America.
Projected by officials as a defining moment in China-US ties, Trump’s visit is taking place in the “new era” of Xi Jinping, who commenced his second tenure less than a fortnight ago as the most powerful leader of the country after Mao Zedong.
China and the US are working to ensure President Trump’s state visit becomes a “historic success”, Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told the official media. Using this opportunity, Chinese President Xi and Trump will have strategic communication on significant issues of common concern to build a new consensus, enhance mutual understanding and friendship, and promote bilateral relations in all spheres, Zheng said.
He said China would provide a “state visit-plus” experience for Trump and his family. “Apart from the red-carpet ceremony, formal talks and a banquet, President Xi and his US counterpart will have some informal get-togethers,” Zheng said. Trump to get ‘state visit-plus’, experience in China,” state-run Global Times reported, stating there is “tremendous public curiosity” over the visit.
Representatives from about 40 top companies are expected to accompany Trump to China and sign deals worth billions of dollars for US investments, another state-run newspaper China Daily reported. The talks between Xi and Trump will define the course of the ties between the world’s top two economies in the “new era” headed by Chinese President Xi, official news agency Xinhua quoted officials as saying that
Trump, who will be first world leader to visit China after Xi kicked off his second term, has also acknowledged Xi’s powerful status saying he is the ‘king of China’. “A ‘state visit-plus’ refers to arrangements that could show the personal relationship between the two presidents and place…that can help the US president have a better understanding of Chinese history and culture,” Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University’s Centre for American Studies in Shanghai, told the Global Times.
The two Presidents are expected to visit China’s historic place, the Forbidden City adjacent to the iconic Tiananmen Square. “The visit will be different from routine arrangements and there will be surprises,” Ni Feng, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of American Studies, said.
Many Chinese are concerned about the future of bilateral ties, and how the two countries will interact over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme, An Gang, a senior research fellow at the Pangoal Institution, a Beijing-based think tank, said. The visit has also attracted wide public attention.
The public expressed their views online, asking whether Trump will visit the Great Wall or open an account on Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like platform. The hashtag “Trump’s visit to China” had received more than two million page views on Weibo so far.
Xi and Trump spent over seven hours together in April at the US president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in the US state of Florida where the two leaders worked out a 100-day plan to boost economic cooperation. After a deal to reopen the Chinese markets to the US for beef in July, American beef is back on China’s menu. China says the action plan has produced some tangible results.
Ahead of his visit, Trump has said the massive trade deficit in bilateral trade is a shame, and has been putting pressure on China to open the Chinese markets more for US products and firms. US goods and services trade with China totalled to an estimated USD 648.2 billion in 2016 in which China had a lion’s share with about USD 478.9 billion exports. The US exports to China stood at USD 169.3 billion, according to US trade figures. Trump is also putting pressure on Xi to press China’s close ally North Korea to give up the nuclear and missile programme which has become a major threat to US.
The two leaders will also discuss major issues of common concern, Zheng said, noting that the meeting is of great significance to Sino-US relations and to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. Also expected to figure in Trump-Xi discussion is the US’ new South Asia policy which is piling pressure on Pakistan, China’s all-weather ally, to dismantle terror safe havens.
China is also apprehensive about the US trying to work out a quadrilateral with India, Japan and Australia. Japan has proposed the four countries to work out a new Silk Road plan to counter China’s ambitious and multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative.
The US has been accusing China of violating international rules and norms by laying claims on the disputed South and East China seas. China claims sovereignty on almost all of the South China Sea (SCS) which is disputed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
China has also laid claims on the Senkaku islands under the control of Japan in East China Sea and resorted to aggressive patrols in the last two years. The US calls the dominance of China over the SCS a threat to national interest in freedom of navigation.