With Xi out of US, Chinese media slam Trump

US President Donald Trump (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping walking together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 7, 2017.
US President Donald Trump (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping walking together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 7, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • With Chinese President Xi Jinping safely out of the US and no longer President Donald Trump's guest, China's state-run media was free to denounce the missile strike on Syria, which the US President told Mr Xi about while they were finishing dinner.

Xinhua, the state news agency, last Saturday called the strike an act of a weakened politician who needed to flex his muscles.

In an analysis, Xinhua also said Mr Trump had ordered the strike to distance himself from Syria's backers in Moscow, to overcome accusations that he was "pro-Russia".

That unflattering assessment reflected China's official opposition to military intervention in the affairs of other countries.

But it was also a criticism of Mr Trump, whom Mr Xi had hoped was a man China could deal with.

Chinese officials had feared that the two leaders' 24-hour encounter at Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida might be marred by an anti-China outburst from Mr Trump.

Instead, it was interrupted by the unexpected missile attack.

Mr Trump wants China to do more to deter the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea, its ally, and some Chinese analysts viewed the Syria attack as a reminder to Mr Xi that the United States could also attack the North.

The missile strike on Syria overshadowed meetings that US and Chinese officials described as big-picture conversations on trade as well as North Korea, which stopped short of producing specific agreements.

Both sides agreed that the North Korean threat had reached a "very serious" stage, according to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

He said the US was prepared to take its "own course" if China did not do more to rein in the North.

But the account of the talks in Xinhua did not mention North Korea.

Analysts said the omission was probably intentional - a response to the attack on Syria.

Despite the criticism of Mr Trump, Chinese media reports of his meeting with Mr Xi were positive.

The official China Daily newspaper said it was encouraging to see the two-day summit that ended last Friday "going as well as it could" after earlier "confusing signals" from Washington about how it was approaching the US-China relationship.

The Global Times tabloid said the meeting "served as an indicator that the China-US relationship is still very much on course since the Trump administration took office in January", and it was likely the two nations would develop a more "pragmatic relationship".

Their comments were echoed by a front-page commentary in the overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, which said the meeting established the tone for the development of US-China relations.

In a tweet last Saturday, Mr Trump wrote of the meeting that "goodwill and friendship was formed, but only time will tell on trade".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2017, with the headline 'With Xi out of US, Chinese media slam Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe