Cautious coverage in Chinese media of Xi Jinping's first meeting with Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping shaking hands while walking at Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, US, on April 7, 2017.
US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping shaking hands while walking at Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, US, on April 7, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Their widely watched handshakes were polite, with both US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping smiling at each other.

Most important of all , there was hardly any awkward moment which the Chinese side had undoubtedly fretted about in private.

Still, the Chinese press was cautious in their coverage of the first day of the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders in the United States.

China's state-run Global Times news website, as well as other major news portals such as Sina.com, news.163.com, The Paper, and even Phoenix TV's news website all published news stories filed by China's official Xinhua news agency. These websites did not provide more coverage of the first day's session and dinner.

Xinhua, besides reporting on the two men's meeting, noted that Mr Trump's grandchildren performed at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Thursday (April 6 US time, April 7 Singapore time).

 
 

Arabella, five, and her brother Joseph, three, sang a Chinese folksong Jasmine and recited verses from the Three-Character Classics as well as Tang dynasty poems to the leaders.

They are the children of Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, who played an important role in paving the way for the first meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Xi.

Xinhua reported that Mr Xi "engaged with his US counterpart Donald Trump... in a deep-going, friendly and long-time exchange, as the first meeting between them catches global spotlight".

Political science professor Zhang Ming at China's Renmin University told media outlet CNBC that the reason for the muted coverage is that the Chinese government is still nervous about what will come out of the Xi-Trump summit and how it could affect Mr Xi's image back home.

Chinese officials are mindful of the pitfalls if Mr Trump veers off-script.

China's state-run China Daily cited Mr Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Centre, as saying: "The more Trump and Xi meet, the better.

"If the two sides are able to simply signal to each other their desire to have a constructive relationship in the face of competitive pressures, and they can get off the first step successfully, that's enough."