Xi gives Trump a Chinese history lesson

China's President Xi Jinping (left) and US President Donald Trump attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov 9, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - As President Xi Jinping led his US counterpart Donald Trump around Beijing's Forbidden City on Wednesday (Nov 9), he made time to teach the American billionaire a bit of Chinese history.

Trump has been given the red carpet treatment on his three-day state visit, beginning with a tour of the ancient imperial palace where he sipped tea with Xi and showed the Chinese leader a video of his granddaughter singing in Mandarin.

Chinese media were quick to give the footage airtime, with the official Xinhua news agency broadcasting it on its Twitter account, though the platform is blocked in China.

The pomp and circumstance may be intended to allay some of Trump's fervour on sticky issues such as China's vast trade surplus with the US and continued relationship with its rogue neighbour, North Korea.

History was not expected to be on the list of talking points - at least until Trump mentioned he had heard that Chinese history went back 5,000 years and Xi stepped in to tell him more, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

"We have 3,000 years with a written language," Xi said through a translator as they moseyed through the Forbidden City's immense cobblestoned courtyards.

"I guess the older culture, they say, is Egypt with 8,000," Trump retorted.

China is famously proud of its heritage, with schoolchildren learning early on that the country is one of the four great ancient civilisations.

"Egypt is a bit more ancient," Xi admitted.

"But the only continuous civilisation to continue onwards is China."

"We people are the original people, black hair, yellow skin, inherited onwards," Xi laughed. "We call ourselves the descendents of the dragon."

"That's great," Trump said.

It is not the first history rundown Xi has given the real estate mogul.

During the leaders' first meeting at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Xi gave him a quick lesson on past Sino-Korean relations, which Trump told the Wall Street Journal changed his thinking on the issue.

Xi disabused him of his earlier opinion that Beijing could easily dispatch the North Korean threat, he said, stating: "After listening for ten minutes, I realised it's not so easy."

Though Trump generally does not take well to being lectured, he appears not to mind Xi's words of wisdom, repeatedly referring to the statesman as a "friend".

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