Douglas Paal: Trump-Xi summit an opportunity to enhance US-China ties

President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Photo: EPA

The upcoming summit between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping provides a good opportunity for the two countries to shape the vision of their bilateral relations, according to a China expert.

In a recent interview with the, Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that the Chinese government has made full preparations bureaucratically for the Trump-Xi meeting and gained the advantage of taking the initiative, making it look more active than the Trump administration.

Many Chinese officials and scholars had urged an early meeting to head off confrontations that could result from decisions made one-by-one that are not guided by an overall vision, Paal noted.

On the part of the US, President Trump has a big motivation to show the voters that his presidency will make a difference in relations with China, according to Paal.

Surprised by the speed at which the Trump-Xi meeting was set up, Paal said that it is too early to judge what impact the presidential meeting will have on the US-China relations. But the expert emphasized that the two leaders' commitment to frank dialogue will help the two countries reduce confrontations, manage the differences and enhance cooperation.

As North Korea is intensifying its provocative behavior, Paal pointed out that the security interests of the US and China are becoming more aligned, despite differences in other areas. South Korea is a major party to this issue and is going to be in a political flux in the near term. This may limit the outlook for the presidential summit to achieve much on North Korea beyond broad policy pronouncements, according to Paal.

In terms of trade, Paal said that President Trump will seek trade remedies to make the bilateral trade more fair. There appear to be differences on President Trump's team about what to seek from China, but Beijing gives every appearance of being willing to seek solutions to head off confrontations over trade and investment, Paal noted. He expects a combination of big policy pronouncements and an assortment of specific offers to increase trade and investment.

The two leaders would do well to set a limit on confrontations over the South and East China seas. They also need to give their ministers instructions on how to carry out their broad agreements, especially at the upcoming annual meetings, known until now as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, according to Paal.

Paal concluded that the reduction in confrontations between the two countries depends on whether Trump and Xi stick to the promise for candid dialogue.

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