US President Donald Trump arrived here on Wednesday to hold wide-ranging talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on a host of issues, including ramping up pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme and trade frictions between the two most powerful economies. Both countries are also expected to sign trade deals worth billions of dollars during Trump’s three-day visit.
China is pulling out all the stops to give a “state visit-plus” reception to Trump on his maiden visit. Chinese officials projected the visit as a defining moment in China-US ties as it is taking place in the “new era” of Xi, who commenced his second tenure less than a fortnight ago as the most powerful leader of China after Mao Zedong.
Trump’s programme here will start with tea with his Chinese counterpart Xi. Later the two leaders will visit China’s iconic Forbidden City, adjacent to the Tiananmen Square followed by a private dinner. Trump will be given an extended ceremonial welcome at the Great Hall of the People tomorrow followed by bilateral talks with Xi. Later Trump would also take part in a business event followed by joint media event.
Trump is also scheduled to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and attend a reception followed by state dinner and cultural performance. The visit will provide opportunities for President Xi and Trump to exchange in-depth views on issues that concern both sides, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a media briefing yesterday.
The visit is of great significance in pushing forward the steady development of Sino-US relations in the new era and promoting the prosperity of not only the Asia-Pacific region but also the world, she said. Terry Branstad, US ambassador to China, said that the meeting between the two presidents will be helpful in resolving “thorny issues”.
“There is a lot of excitement and feelings that this could be very historic and significant for the Trump-Xi meeting here,” he said. “I think the chemistry between the two leaders is good, and that bodes well. If the two leaders can get along well and work out some of the differences, hopefully that can help the rest of us to work things out well,” he added. Since Trump took office in January, the two leaders have maintained close contact. They already have had two face-to-face meetings and eight phone conversations.
Branstad also said a number of memorandums of understanding are expected to be signed during Trump’s visit, covering manufacturing, energy and other sectors. Trump’s visit marks the first by a head of state to China after last month’s once-in-a-five year Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China, which conferred a second five-year term for Xi.
“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 the North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme, An Gang, a senior research fellow at the Pangoal Institution, a Beijing-based think tank, said.
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 the US.
Trump yesterday said Xi had been “very helpful” in dealing with the threat posed by nuclear-armed North Korea. 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 the national interest in freedom of navigation.