Meet­ing ex­pec­ta­tions in China

Don­ald Trump and Xi Jin­ping have es­tab­lished strong ties

The Weekend Australian - - COMMENTARY -

Ex­pec­ta­tions that Don­ald Trump’s visit to Bei­jing would pro­duce im­me­di­ate an­nounce­ments on cru­cial is­sues such as North Korea or trade were al­ways naive. In­ter­na­tional diplo­macy does not work that way. What is clear from the warm bon­homie and re­mark­ably pos­i­tive op­tics on dis­play be­tween the US Pres­i­dent and Xi Jin­ping, how­ever, is that the world’s two most pow­er­ful lead­ers have es­tab­lished a rap­port that holds the prospect of im­proved co­op­er­a­tion in our re­gion. The sym­bol­ism in­her­ent in Mr Xi’s tea re­cep­tion for Mr Trump in the For­bid­den City, a priv­i­lege ac­corded no pre­vi­ous US pres­i­dent, is im­por­tant. And while there is no short­age of carp­ing crit­ics scoff­ing at Mr Trump’s talk of the “chem­istry” be­tween him and Mr Xi, and his ful­some flat­tery of the Chi­nese leader as “a very spe­cial man”, Mr Trump knows plenty about the “art of the deal” and win­ning over a ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ner.

What will come of their bon­homie is the key ques­tion. It is im­per­a­tive that Mr Trump and Mr Xi set about build­ing on their “bro­mance in Bei­jing” to achieve progress in re­la­tion to North Korea and trade. China’s sup­port, along­side Rus­sia, for the UN res­o­lu­tion im­pos­ing new sanc­tions on Pyongyang showed sig­nif­i­cant move­ment from its pre­vi­ous un­will­ing­ness. The res­o­lu­tion was sig­nif­i­cantly di­luted, how­ever, to gain their sup­port.

Bei­jing has not cut many of the fi­nan­cial links with North Korea banned un­der sanc­tions. It con­tin­ues to re­sist cut­ting off oil sup­plies on the grounds that Pyongyang’s cit­i­zens would freeze. Yet Chi­nese oil is used pri­mar­ily to keep North Korea’s mil­i­tary ma­chine go­ing. And as the oil is sent as aid, Pyongyang does not pay for it. China is also sell­ing lum­ber trans­porters to North Korea, al­legedly for the tim­ber in­dus­try, although they are be­ing re­mod­elled into bal­lis­tic mis­sile launch ve­hi­cles.

The fact Mr Trump and Mr Xi firmly recom­mit­ted them­selves to the de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of the Korean penin­sula and sup­port for UN sanc­tions was en­cour­ag­ing. Amid their bon­homie, Mr Trump was frank, even in pub­lic, about the need for China to do more — he prob­a­bly spoke even more bluntly in pri­vate. He now must use his re­la­tion­ship with Mr Xi to fol­low up. It re­mains to be seen whether Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son’s as­ser­tion that “there’s no space be­tween both our ob­jec­tives” on North Korea is borne out. Time will tell whether the “bro­mance in Bei­jing” has made a real dif­fer­ence to the cri­sis.

On trade, Mr Trump has wisely re­treated from his cam­paign rhetoric in which he threat­ened a trade war and ac­cused China of be­ing a “cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tor” engaged in un­fair prac­tices that jeop­ar­dise US jobs. The sign­ing of $325 bil­lion in new or­ders for US busi­ness should go a long way to­wards de­fus­ing hos­til­ity and en­abling a new trade re­la­tion­ship to de­velop.

Mr Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin were ex­pected to meet at the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion sum­mit in Viet­nam, where the an­nounce­ment of an agree­ment on a post­war po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion for Syria was a pos­si­bil­ity. As of yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, how­ever, such a meet­ing ap­peared less likely. Con­tro­versy sur­round­ing al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in last year’s US elec­tion will add in­tense in­ter­est even to any in­for­mal meet­ing be­tween the pair. North Korea, how­ever, re­mains the main chal­lenge for Mr Trump, who must main­tain un­re­lent­ing pres­sure on Mr Xi to rein in Pyongyang.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.