China

China: Putting Beijing ties on an even keel

BEIJING • The Chinese expect that United States President Donald Trump's visit to China next week will not hit the same high notes as Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the balmy seaside resort of Mar-a-Largo in Florida.

Still, they would want the second summit between the two leaders to continue to build a stable foundation for bilateral ties and point these in a good direction, analysts say. "This is the desire of both sides," said Professor Su Hao of the China Foreign Affairs University.

On the two issues likely to be central to the visit - the North Korea nuclear crisis and the Chinese-US trade imbalance - the Chinese would like to ease US pressure on Beijing over them.

The Mar-a-Largo summit in April, the first between the two leaders after Mr Trump took power earlier this year, was a huge success both in creating a friendly atmosphere for bilateral ties and in achieving some substantive results, including starting a new set of dialogues.

However, things have gone south for the two major powers since then, with Mr Trump accusing the Chinese of not doing enough to rein in the North Koreans' nuclear and missile programmes.

A trade talk in July failed to reach agreement on how to reduce the US' trade deficit with China. The following month, the US started an inquiry into China's alleged theft of American intellectual property, casting a shadow on bilateral ties.

 

"Both in terms of form and substance, the achievement (of the upcoming visit) will not be as good as in April," said Professor Shi Yinhong of Renmin University.

The two sides' differences have grown even as the scope for cooperation has narrowed, he added.

For the Chinese, the expectation is that Mr Trump will want to pressure them to do more over North Korea, which has tested the Americans' patience with a sixth nuclear test last month and the testing of long-range missiles that could have the capacity to reach US shores.

But the Chinese are unlikely to want to apply more pressure on the North Koreans, as ties between the two close allies have worsened since Beijing began imposing heavier sanctions on Pyongyang, particularly after the nuclear test.

What the Chinese are hoping for is to make some trade and economic concessions to Mr Trump to keep him off their backs over North Korea, said Prof Shi.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline 'Putting Beijing ties on an even keel'. Print Edition | Subscribe