Trump’s new tack on China trade

In Bei­jing, pres­i­dent says he doesn’t blame China and in­stead shifts re­spon­si­bil­ity to his pre­de­ces­sors.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Brian Ben­nett and Noah Bier­man brian.ben­nett@la­ noah.bier­man@la­

Speak­ing in Bei­jing, the pres­i­dent, who as a can­di­date of­ten cas­ti­gated the Chi­nese, shifts blame to his pre­de­ces­sors.

BEI­JING — Af­ter days of bask­ing in the flat­tery of other world lead­ers, Pres­i­dent Trump dished out some of his own Thurs­day, bestow­ing kind words and ges­tures on an un­likely re­cip­i­ent: China’s Xi Jin­ping, the com­mu­nist leader who just tight­ened his grip on power in a coun­try Trump ac­cused dur­ing the cam­paign of “rap­ing” U.S. work­ers.

Trump called Xi “a very spe­cial man” with whom he has “great chem­istry.” He con­grat­u­lated the Chi­nese pres­i­dent on the re­cent Com­mu­nist Party congress, which gave new author­ity to Xi. And al­though he chal­lenged the Chi­nese leader on the econ­omy and the “men­ace” of North Korea, he cast more blame on his Amer­i­can pre­de­ces­sors than on Xi for the trade im­bal­ance.

“I don’t blame China,” Trump said at a cer­e­mony in­volv­ing U.S. and Chi­nese busi­ness lead­ers. “Who can blame a coun­try for be­ing able to take ad­van­tage of an­other coun­try for the ben­e­fit of its cit­i­zens? I give China great credit.”

Xi set the table for the cozy mood by play­ing the role of gra­cious host. He un­furled the gilded trap­pings of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party for Trump, com­plete with goose-step­ping sol­diers, a 21-gun sa­lute on Tianan­men Square and an elab­o­rate ban­quet in the Great Hall of the Peo­ple. At the state din­ner, he played a video mon­tage of their time to­gether that in­cluded Trump’s grand­daugh­ter, Ara­bella, singing in Chi­nese, recorded dur­ing Xi’s visit to Palm Beach, Fla., in April.

In a se­ries of talks with top party lead­ers un­der the golden chan­de­liers of the Soviet-style hall, Trump pressed China to open its mar­kets to more U.S.-made prod­ucts and do more to push North Korea to give up nu­clear weapons.

“To­gether we have it in our power to fi­nally lib­er­ate this re­gion and the world from this very se­ri­ous nu­clear men­ace,” Trump said when the two made a joint state­ment to re­porters, adding that it will re­quire “col­lec­tive ac­tion.”

The two lead­ers didn’t take ques­tions from re­porters, break­ing with a prece­dent from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion dur­ing which the U.S. in­sisted on al­low­ing ques­tions.

Speak­ing ear­lier to the busi­ness lead­ers, Trump talked bluntly about the U.S. trade im­bal­ance with China.

“We have to fix this be­cause it just doesn’t work,” he said. “It is just not sus­tain­able.”

Xi was more de­tached in his com­ments than Trump, who spoke in per­sonal terms about what he called a ter­rific ini­tial meet­ing Wed­nes­day night and a din­ner that he said went longer than ex­pected be­cause the men were hav­ing such a great time.

Later, Trump blamed prior U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions for cre­at­ing a trade im­bal­ance, say­ing, “It’s too bad that past ad­min­is­tra­tions al­lowed it to get so far out of kil­ter.”

Trump’s lan­guage, putting the U.S. and China on near-equal foot­ing, could play to Xi’s fa­vor. The Chi­nese pres­i­dent is ea­ger to as­sert China as a world power ri­val­ing Amer­ica.

Xi spoke in far dif­fer­ent terms, cel­e­brat­ing a Chi­nese econ­omy that is en­ter­ing a new phase, from “high­speed growth” to “high-qual­ity growth.”

Dur­ing the joint state­ment to the me­dia, the two lead­ers said they agreed to co­op­er­ate on trade im­bal­ance re­duc­tion, North Korea and cy­ber­se­cu­rity, as well as on ef­forts to crack down on il­le­gal ship­ments to the U.S. of the pow­er­ful opi­oid fen­tanyl, which has con­trib­uted to a sharp rise in drug over­doses in the United States.

Through­out, Trump seemed to be mak­ing an at­tempt to play to Xi’s ego in the same way that other world lead­ers have ap­pealed to his.

“China can fix this prob­lem eas­ily and quickly, and I am call­ing on China and your great pres­i­dent to hope­fully work on it very hard,” he said, re­fer­ring to North Korea. “I know one thing about your pres­i­dent: If he works on it hard, it will hap­pen.”

Trump seems to have rel­ished his tour of Asia so far, vis­it­ing three coun­tries where he was lav­ished with praise, feted and, above all, treated with re­spect, at a time in Wash­ing­ton when Trump is re­port­edly feeling dis­re­spected, in­sulted and un­der siege.

Ar­riv­ing at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple, an enor­mous ed­i­fice com­pleted in 1959 for the 10th an­niver­sary of the Com­mu­nist Party’s rule of China, Trump wore his sig­na­ture wide, bright-red tie, which matched the dozens of red ban­ners flap­ping along the roof of the hall.

A mas­sive red vase hold­ing fake flow­ers sev­eral sto­ries tall stood in the mid­dle of the empty square, where in 1989 hun­dreds of thou­sands of Chi­nese cit­i­zens camped out for six weeks to de­mand demo­cratic re­forms be­fore the gov­ern­ment cleared the area in a deadly crack­down.

Af­ter shak­ing hands with the Chi­nese and Amer­i­can del­e­ga­tions, Trump and Xi stood to­gether in­side a gold re­view­ing stand with a redand-yel­low awning as a mil­i­tary band played each coun­try’s na­tional an­them.

At one point, just af­ter the two lead­ers walked past the troops stand­ing in for­ma­tion, Trump seemed more ea­ger to as­sert his dom­i­nance and take con­trol of the pace of the event. He pat­ted Xi on the back and told the Chi­nese leader he wanted to “stop to watch” the mil­i­tary band. Xi stood at Trump’s side and waited. “Beau­ti­ful,” Trump said.

Trump rel­ished the neat rows of chil­dren — jump­ing and cheer­ing and wav­ing Chi­nese and U.S. flags.

Along the streets of Bei­jing, red ban­ners in­scribed with white Mao Tse-tungera Chi­nese char­ac­ters en­cour­aged cit­i­zens to study and fol­low “Xi Jin­ping thought.”

The Xi meet­ing, buff­ing up one of the im­por­tant re­la­tion­ships in Trump’s pres­i­dency, is likely to be fol­lowed by a sec­ond summit elic­it­ing in­tense in­ter­est.

Trump is set to head to Da Nang, Viet­nam, on Fri­day for an eco­nomic con­fer­ence also be­ing at­tended by Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

Rus­sian of­fi­cials said Trump and Putin will meet there, but U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son was non­com­mit­tal, say­ing it was un­clear whether the two lead­ers would sit down or talk briefly while stand­ing on the side­lines of the con­fer­ence.

“If we’re go­ing to have a meet­ing with them, make sure it’s a meet­ing that’s mean­ing­ful,” Tiller­son said, adding that a list of im­por­tant is­sues that could come up in­cludes Rus­sian ac­tions in the Syr­ian conf lict and the bor­der dis­pute in Ukraine.

The meet­ing is likely to be con­tro­ver­sial, given the ac­cel­er­at­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion at home into po­ten­tial col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sian op­er­a­tives that in­volves Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion.

Asked whether that mat­ter is some­thing Trump will talk to Putin about, Tiller­son said, “It stays on that list.”

Fred Du­four AFP/Getty Im­ages

PRES­I­DENTS Trump and Xi Jin­ping at­tend a meet­ing in Bei­jing’s Great Hall of the Peo­ple. The Chi­nese leader has wel­comed Trump with goose-step­ping troops, a 21-gun sa­lute on Tianan­men Square and a ban­quet.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.