Personal relationships help define China-US ties

World Today

President Trump has said the best relationship he has with a foreign leader is the one he has with President Xi. That may be by design—especially on the part of Xi Jinping, as CGTN’s Jessica Stone explains.

Long before Chinese President Xi Jinping ushered in a new era for China, he made his personal touch one of the hallmarks of China’s diplomacy.

As vice president, Xi went out of his way to see the American family who hosted him 27 years earlier. The following year, he shed his suit jacket and tie for the so-called “shirt-sleeves” summit with then-U.S. President, Barack Obama.

But how would Xi react to the populism of Donald Trump? Would he stay calm if Trump unleashed a dose of his China-bashing rhetoric?

“I myself had some doubt if [Xi] could come to the U.S. at this type of situation,” says Sam Zhou, director of the Center for China-U.S. Cooperation at the University of Denver. “He established very strong personal contacts and personal trust with the President Trump.”

Later, both leaders talked of their friendship. China expert Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution said Xi and Trump may share little in style, but they do have common values.

“Both of them are nationalist leader,” Li explained. “And one wants to rejuvenize (sic) Chinese culture and the so-called ‘Chinese Dream’; the other has called to ‘make America great again’. And both of them do not like bureaucracy.”

Personal relationships have helped define relations between the U.S. and China, beginning with Mao Zedong welcoming Richard Nixon to Beijing.

The same appears true of this current friendship, but it hasn’t silenced the mutual complaints.

Washington criticizes China on trade and its island-building in the South China Sea. Beijing rejects these criticisms, and opposes the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that President Trump is famous for.

“The U.S. has not changed his policies,” Sam Zhou explained. “Those issues are still very complicated and very important for the leaders to deal with.”

China and the United States are among each other’s top trading partners. If Pyongyang does launch a missile at the U.S., the ensuing war would happen on China’s doorstep.