Trump gets grandest of tours
CHINA: President Donald Trump received royal treatment on his arrival in Beijing yesterday as President Xi Jinping harnessed the glories of imperial China to impress his guest with the Communist country’s superpower status.
Trump and his wife Melania were whisked straight to the Forbidden City, where Xi offered a personal tour of China’s rich and ancient history before a banquet in the former seat of emperors, an honour not extended to a visiting foreign leader since the revolution.
The show of cultural power, part of the ‘‘state visit-plus’’ reception afforded to Trump, was the prelude to formal, challenging talks when Xi and Trump will tackle North Korea and trade.
Trump will seek to cajole his host to be tougher against Kim Jong Un’s nuclear programme. Earlier, Trump told South Korea’s parliament that Kim must freeze his ballistic missiles programme and dismantle his nuclear weapons before any engagement with the United States. The speech dulled hopes of an unspecified ‘‘deal’’ which Trump had touted in previous days.
Trump will also urge Xi to address the trade imbalance between the world’s two largest economies. Xi, worried at the prospect of insecurity on China’s border with North Korea, is unlikely to budge on Kim but the two sides are likely to sign more trade deals.
As Trump sipped tea with Xi in the Forbidden City, a group of Chinese and American businessmen signed 19 deals worth US$9 billion in life sciences, aerospace and smart manufacturing.
Trump has been demanding reciprocal trade with China instead of what he considers ‘‘unfair trade’’ in which the US had a US$347b deficit last year. Midyear he threatened a trade war by opening an investigation; Beijing responded that a full-out trade war would hurt both sides.
Without any structural change, Beijing may allow more American imports, buying extra American beef, to blunt the criticisms, although China is unlikely to open up state-controlled sectors such as banking and healthcare.
Ahead of the talks, Xi and Trump have sought to build a personal friendship, as Xi did with Barack Obama, the previous American president.
In an unusual move, Xi closed the Forbidden City to tourists for the day, opened usually secluded halls for his guests and served as a personal guide to Trump and his wife, who walked the timeworn slabs and admired the grandiose rooms that hosted the rise and fall of Chinese dynasties.
The Trumps were treated to Peking opera performances and they also toured a workshop where repairmen were restoring national treasures such as paintings, calligraphy and clocks.
When Trump commented on China’s 5000 years of history, Xi said that the written history was about 3000 years. When Trump told Xi that Egyptian civilisation was older, at 8000 years, Xi said: ‘‘China is the only country with an uninterrupted culture that has been continuously passed on to today. We are the same people as from the past.’’
‘‘That’s good,’’ Trump said. Over tea at the Baoyun House, the only Western-style structure inside the Forbidden Palace, the leaders exchanged pleasantries. Trump engaged in ‘‘granddaughter diplomacy’’ when he produced an iPad to show Xi and Peng Liyuan, his wife, video clips of Arabella Kushner, 6, singing Chinese songs and reciting ancient Chinese poems. – The Times
President Donald Trump shakes hands with opera performers at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.