China sees Kushner as the man to reach Trump

The studied informality of the gathering at Mar-a-Lago is the handiwork of Mr Jared Kushner (above), who is married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, and China's Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai. US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Ji
US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will have two days of meetings this week at Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.PHOTO: XINHUA
The studied informality of the gathering at Mar-a-Lago is the handiwork of Mr Jared Kushner (above), who is married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, and China's Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai. US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Ji
The studied informality of the gathering at Mar-a-Lago is the handiwork of Mr Jared Kushner (above), who is married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, and China's Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai.

WASHINGTON • When United States President Donald Trump welcomes President Xi Jinping of China to his palm-fringed Florida club for two days of meetings this week, the studied informality of the gathering will bear the handiwork of two people: China's Ambassador to Washington and Mr Trump's son-in-law.

Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai has established a busy back channel to Mr Jared Kushner, who is married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, according to several officials briefed on the relationship.

The two men agreed on the club, Mar-a-Lago, as the site for the meeting, and the ambassador even sent Mr Kushner drafts of a joint statement that China and the US could issue afterwards.

Mr Kushner's central role reflects the peculiar nature not only of this first meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Xi, but also of the broader relationship between the United States and China in the early days of the Trump administration.

It is at once highly personal and bluntly transactional - a strategy that carries significant risks, experts said, given the economic and security issues that divide the countries.

While Chinese officials have found Mr Trump a bewildering figure with a penchant for inflammatory statements, they have come to at least one clear judgment: In Mr Trump's Washington, his son-in-law is the man to know.

Mr Kushner, a 36-year-old with no previous government experience but an exceptionally broad portfolio under his father-in-law, first made his influence felt in early February when he and Mr Cui orchestrated a fence-mending phone call between the two presidents.

During that exchange, Mr Trump pledged to abide by Washington's four-decade-old "one China" policy on Taiwan, despite his earlier suggestion that it was up for negotiation.

China's courtship of Mr Kushner, which has coincided with the marginalisation of the State Department in the Trump administration, reflects a Chinese comfort with dynastic links.

President Xi is himself a "princeling": His father was Xi Zhongxun, a major figure in the communist revolution who was later purged by Mao Zedong.

"Since (former secretary of state Henry) Kissinger, the Chinese have been infatuated with gaining and maintaining access to the White House," said Mr Evan Medeiros, a senior director for Asia in the Obama administration.

"Having access to the President's family and somebody they see as a princeling is even better."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'China sees Kushner as the man to reach Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe