US President Donald Trump will host Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 6 and 7 at his Mar-a-Lago resort, four years after the first meeting between the former US President Barack Obama and Xi in 2013 in Sunnylands.
It will be the first encounter between Trump and Xi, and there are three things to expect from the upcoming summit.
Setting a new tone for China-US relationship
During US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Beijing in March this year, he said that the China-US relationship had been "a very positive relationship built on non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation". This is what China has been repeatedly calling for and the true meaning behind the “new model of major-country relationship” which the US is somehow not willing to accept, for the US worries that following China’s proposal on some significant issues may harm the US interests in the Asia Pacific region.
So, does Tillerson’s latest attitude on the China-US relationship represent a change in US policy on China? Not really. This is because Trump’s China-policy team has not yet formed and many of his China policies have not been finalized yet. As Bonnie Glaser, an expert from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), put in an earlier interview with the Sino-US.com, even if the US has admitted the idea of the “new model of major-country relationship”, it didn’t mean Trump has set the tone for the China-US relationship.
As the upcoming meeting between Trump and Xi is somehow a personal one, it will not be surprising if no joint announcements are made in the end. But what could be expected from the meeting is that the two countries will agree on cooperation as the main way to resolve conflicts between China and the US in the near future.
But what needs to be clarified during the process is the bottom line in the China-US relationship: “one China policy”. Trump seemed to challenge the China-US relationship by questioning the “one-China policy”, but later he said he would adhere to the policy, which means a “time bomb” was removed from the relationship between the two countries. A principle critical to the China-US relationship, the “one-China policy” is expected to be on the table again during the two-day meeting between Trump and Xi.
Looking for new areas of cooperation
Especially on the trade front, Trump has been blaming China for the US trade deficit and calling China as a “currency manipulator” since his campaign. Even at the eve of the Xi-Trump meeting, he ordered an investigation into the currency manipulation issue, raising concerns over a trade war between the two countries. Unlike diplomatic and military conflicts, a trade war between two countries, once ignited, results in double losses without any one party emerging as winner. A trade war between the two biggest countries in the world is hard to imagine.
Born a businessman, Trump knows better than anybody else the consequences of a trade war between China and the US, and how to apply the trade art to the relationship between the two countries. But China also have bargaining chips and knows how to play the trade game. Even if China makes concessions on the market entry threshold, it will still have enough strength to support its trade.
Exploring new communication channels
When Tillerson visited South Korea last month, he said that "all options are on table" in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue, including military action. In fact, the general position of China on the North Korea issue is same with the US, which is denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But the US has wrongly judged the North Korea issue for a long time by thinking China should play a bigger role on the North Korea issue than the US. In fact, China’s influence on North Korea is not as large as that of the US.
In the meantime, the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea is also threatening China’s national security, which China will never accept and is an issue expected to be discussed during the two-day meeting.
Enhancing communication and understanding between China and the US is crucial in resolving both the North Korean nuclear and the THAAD issue.
A glimpse of the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa where Chinese President Xi Jinping will be staying during his two-day meeting with the US President Donald Trump on Thursday and Friday. Photo: Xu Yifan/Sino-US.com
The upcoming meeting between Trump and Xi is also expected to bring up issues concerning the benefits of Chinese Americans on the table, such as visa and immigration policies. During interviews with the Sino-US.com, many people said they hope the Xi-Trump meeting could help promote the China-US relationship so that Chinese Americans could draw a better picture for their future in the country.