From bromance with Xi Jinping to mega deals: Highlights of Donald Trump's China visit

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping attend a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, on Nov 9, 2017.
US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping attend a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, on Nov 9, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

From having tea with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Forbidden City to signing billions of dollars worth of deals, US President Donald Trump's first state visit to China is replete with newsworthy moments.

We look at some of the highlights:

1. Xi-Trump bromance

Even before Mr Trump's arrival in Beijing on Wednesday (Nov 8), much had been made of the personal chemistry between the two most powerful men in the world.

"I like him a lot. I call him a friend. He considers me a friend. With that being said, he represents China, I represent the United States," Mr Trump said on Monday in Tokyo.

So far he and Mr Xi have served up a large dose of bonhomie for the cameras. The two men, accompanied by their wives, sat down to tea in the hallowed halls of the Forbidden City. A smiling and relaxed-looking Mr Xi personally took his guests on a tour around the sprawling imperial compound, telling them that the complex was a window to Chinese history.

At one point Mr Trump even showed Mr Xi video clips of his granddaughter Arabella Kushner. The six-year-old was shown greeting “Grandpa Xi and Grandma Peng” with several Mandarin ballads and a recitation of verses from the ancient Three Character Classic.

Mr Xi said the girl deserved an "A+", Xinhua reported. The clip has since gone viral on Weibo, with Chinese users of the Twitter-like platform cooing over the little girl. Arabella's video was also played at the state dinner hosted by Mr Xi in her grandfather's honour at the Great Hall of the People on Thursday night. 

At their formal bilateral talks in the Great Hall of the People on Thursday, Mr Trump spoke of Mr Xi as a friend with whom he had "great chemistry".

He even said he blamed his predecessors, not China, for the US-China trade imbalance, and repeatedly praised Mr Xi, calling him "a very special man".

Mr Xi smiled widely in response to Mr Trump's comment on the deficit and also when the latter said Mr Xi gets things done, reported Reuters.

2. Trump jumps over Great Firewall

Famous - or infamous - for his tweets, Mr Trump thanked his hosts for rolling out the red carpet for him in a late-night tweet in Beijing on Wednesday - even though Twitter is banned in China.

"On behalf of @FLOTUS Melania and I, THANK YOU for an unforgettable afternoon and evening at the Forbidden City in Beijing, President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan. We are looking forward to rejoining you tomorrow morning!" Mr Trump tweeted to his 42.3 million followers.

Mr Trump even changed his Twitter banner to a photograph of himself and his wife with Mr Xi and Madam Peng, alongside Chinese opera performers at the Forbidden City.

Not only was the tweet not censored by Chinese media, state broadcaster CCTV even published screenshots of the photograph on Thursday.

3. Forbidden City tour

The Chinese are treating Mr Trump's tour as a "state visit +", and the lavish reception was nowhere as apparent as the US First Couple's tour of the Forbidden City.

Besides sipping tea with the Chinese President and First Lady in the Hall of Embodied Treasures, Mr Trump and his wife Melania also toured the three main halls where Ming and Qing dynasty emperors held ceremonial events such as enthronements and sacrifices.

 

At an artifact conservation workshop, Mr Trump praised the repairs to a 300-year-old rosewood cabinet once used by an emperor, and marvelled at the workmanship of an antique clock as "unbelievable".

The couples also sat down in the Hall of Character Cultivation for a performance of acrobatics and opera.

"Beautiful!" said Mr Trump as he and Melania posed for pictures with the heavily-madeup opera cast. "We're having a great time, thank you."

4. Xi sticks to his guns on North Korea

Mr Trump appealed to China, North Korea's main ally, to resolve the threat posed by the isolated state's nuclear and missile programmes. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Mr Trump told Mr Xi: "You're a strong man, I'm sure you can solve this for me."

Mr Xi, however, merely reiterated China's insistence on resolving the issue through dialogue and consultation.

Still Beijing had signalled earlier this week that it was cracking down on Pyongyang. A foreign ministry spokesman said at a regular news briefing on Wednesday, the day Mr Trump arrived in Beijing, that China fully and strictly implements UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea and will investigate if there are activities that contravene resolutions.

5. Mega deals

Mr Trump and his host unveiled on Thursday some 15 business deals worth more than US$250 billion.

Among the larger deals were a liquefied natural gas project in Alaska involving total investment of up to US$43 billion, and Boeing's sale of 300 aircraft worth about US$37 billion to China Aviation Supplies Holding Co.

However, the agreements were mostly non-binding memorandums of understanding rather than contracts and could take years to materialise, reported Bloomberg.

"This is all for show for President Trump to demonstrate his deal-making prowess," Bloomberg cited Mr James McGregor, China chairman of the consultancy APCO Worldwide, as saying.

Meanwhile, President Xi said that China would open its market according to its own "timetable and roadmap" while calling to respect each other's "differences" - showing that Mr Trump will find it harder to press for him for substantive policy changes.

 

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