Xi to Trump: Cooperation only choice for China, US

A copy of Chinese magazine Global People with a cover picture of Mr Trump at a news-stand in Shanghai. During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump accused China of manipulating its currency and vowed to put a 45 per cent tariff on all Chinese goods -
A copy of Chinese magazine Global People with a cover picture of Mr Trump at a news-stand in Shanghai. During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump accused China of manipulating its currency and vowed to put a 45 per cent tariff on all Chinese goods - which could lead to conflict if he acts on it.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

US President-elect reportedly strikes conciliatory tone in phone call with Xi

Cooperation is the "only correct choice" for China and the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping told incoming US President Donald Trump, who in turn said he believed both sides could achieve "win-win" cooperation.

In their phone call yesterday morning, Mr Xi said China and the US - as the world's biggest developing country and the biggest developed country, and as its two biggest global economies - "need to and can cooperate on many issues".

"The facts prove that cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the US," Mr Xi, 63, told Mr Trump, 70, according to state broadcaster China Central Television

"At this moment, there is an important opportunity and massive potential for China-US cooperation so that both sides need to strengthen coordination," said Mr Xi.

It was their first conversation after Mr Trump won the US presidential election on Nov 8, and followed Mr Xi's earlier congratulatory telegram to the President-elect.

During the call, Mr Xi said both sides should work together to boost economic development and global growth, as well as to expand all areas of exchange and cooperation.

BETTER TIES AHEAD?

Ties could improve if China makes changes for the better and gives the US what it wants, such as cutting back on its currency manipulation.

SHANGHAI-BASED EXPERT SHEN DINGLI of Fudan University, noting that Mr Donald Trump may not carry out his campaign pledges.

During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump had criticised China for manipulating its currency to gain an unfair trading advantage against the US, and promised to put a 45 per cent tariff on all Chinese goods.

But he reportedly struck a conciliatory tone during his conversation with Mr Xi, saying he agreed with the Chinese President's views on Sino-US ties and calling China "a great and important country", according to Xinhua, China's state news agency.

"The US and China can realise win-win cooperation. I'm willing to work with you to strengthen bilateral cooperation. I believe US-China relations will certainly achieve even better development," Mr Trump also said.

Xinhua reported that both leaders discussed "issues of common interests" and agreed to maintain close contact, set up a good working relationship and to meet at an early date.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment when asked at a regular briefing yesterday whether both leaders had discussed the South China Sea issue, which includes their differences over Chinese construction activities and US freedom of navigation patrols in the waterway.

A statement from Mr Trump's transition team later said he believed the conversation with Mr Xi had "established a clear sense of mutual respect" as he predicted both sides would build a strong relationship.

Mr Trump was the clear favourite among the Chinese public, compared with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who remains disliked for her pivotal role in executing the Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy as secretary of state under outgoing US President Barack Obama.

But Chinese analysts say the top leaders prefer to work with Mrs Clinton, a familiar figure, as Beijing is hoping for stability in its foreign relations along with less turbulence in its slowing economy, as it enters a leadership reshuffle next year.

Confrontation could ensue if Mr Trump acts on his election pledges against China, such as the 45 per cent tariff, say observers.

Shanghai-based expert Shen Dingli of Fudan University said Sino-US relations could face "small conflicts", but noted that Mr Trump might not carry out his campaign pledges.

"Also, ties could improve if China makes changes for the better and gives the US what it wants, such as cutting back on its currency manipulation," he told The Straits Times.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'Xi to Trump: Cooperation only choice for China, US'. Print Edition | Subscribe