Last Friday, the White House announced that U.S. President Donald Trump would visit China in November during his trip to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
It will be Mr. Trump’s first trip to Asia since taking office in January.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr. Trump met for the first time in Florida in April, when Trump declared their relationship to be “outstanding” with “tremendous progress” being made between the two countries.
The diplomatic romance did not last long. Relations turned sour amid North Korea’s continuous nuclear threats and tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and other areas.
Dr. Gordon Cheung, director of the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies at Durham University, said Mr. Trump did not start off well on U.S.-China relations, at least verbally.
He told The Globe Post, “[Mr. Trump] complained a lot on China’s trade relations with the U.S., China’s intellectual property rights infringement, China’s RMB internationalization and more recently China’s responsibility in Northeast Asia, especially the North Korea missile ‘crisis’. So, the focus of the U.S.-China visit is still around some of these issues.”
But Dr. Cheung thinks the relationship is actually not too bad. The media, however, paints a more confrontational picture between the two countries.
Dr. Tsering Topgyal, a lecturer in International Relations at University of Birmingham, agreed that U.S.-China relations have been relatively stable. “The stability owes to the fact that the Chinese have been very careful not to upset Trump’s mercurial temper and self-obsessed nature,” he told The Globe Post.
Dr. Topgyal thinks China has been the relative winner between the two. Mr. Trump’s unceasing disputes with allies abroad and opponents in the U.S. have allowed China to operate under the radar and quietly pursue their domestic and regional agenda.
Though stable, the relationship remains unproductive. “The two most powerful states have not been able to cooperate on major issues and bring about transformative changes to any part of the world,” Dr. Topgyal said.
Mr. Trump’s upcoming visit in November might be a good opportunity to advance cooperation. At the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, China’s ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai suggested that Mr. Trump’s trip would help settle trade and investment disputes.
“The two sides will reach agreement on some of the issues we’re dealing with the prospects for mutual trade and mutual benefit will be better,” he said.
Before Mr. Trump’s visit, China will hold its 19th Communist Party national congress, the most important political event that will determine the course of China’s next five years.
Dr. Topgyal thinks the congress will have a great impact on the visit’s agenda. “[Mr. Trump’s] visit could have both positive and negative impact on the relationship. Partly, it will depend upon how Xi Jinping emerges from the 19th Party Congress … and what his agenda for the second term will be,” he said.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Mr. Xi and other top Chinese officials in Beijing. During the meeting, Mr. Tillerson said to the Chinese leader, “this is a relationship that continues to grow and mature on the strength of the relationship between yourself and President Trump. And we look forward to advancing that relationship at the upcoming summit.”
Mr. Xi, in response, called Trump a friend and stressed that cooperation was the only correct choice for both countries.