President Trump bestowed praises on Chinese leader President Xi Jinping Thursday while completing his Asian tour. He refused to fault China’s leader for any part in the trade imbalance that he criticized during his campaign.
In a joint press conference with Xi in front of businessmen, President Trump said America’s relationship with China was a “one-sided and unfair one”, but quickly added, “I don’t blame China. Who can blame a country that is able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit,” reported the Washington Post.
While on his campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly accused China of “raping” the American economy. He saluted China for leaving America “so far behind”.
In a statement before a bilateral meeting with Xi, Mr. Trump said, “We’ve gotten so far behind on trade with China and frankly many other countries,”
In public, President Trump projected an air of deference when addressing Xi and continued to praise the Chinese president. He added that he was confident in China’s ability to diffuse the imminent nuclear threats from North Korea, reported the New York Times.
Behind closed doors, American officials insisted President Trump confronted Xi on the heavily imbalanced trade between the two countries, reported the New York Times. He also pushed China to place tougher measures on North Korea, including a suspension of their oil trade.
“Our president has been very clear with President Xi that he takes the view that, ‘You are a very powerful neighbor of theirs, you account for 90-plus percent of their economic activity, you’re a strong man. You can, I’m sure, solve this for me,’” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, according to the New York Times.
President Trump echoed these notions in a series of tweets following the meeting.
Mr. Trump’s comments quickly drew criticism, the most vocal of which came from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
“The president may not blame China, but I do, and so do millions of Americans who voted for him and others who have lost their jobs at the hands of China’s rapacious trade policies,” he said in a statement. “After campaigning like a lion against China’s trade practices, the president is governing like a lamb. Rather than treating China with kid gloves, the president should be much tougher with China — as he promised he would be on the campaign trail,” reported the Washington Post.
The Washington Post also reported the two countries announced a memorandum of understanding to increase trade by $253 billion, the only tangible outcome from the high-stakes summit.
President Xi spoke in scripted, diplomatic terms emphasizing the country’s desire for a win-win outcome and the prospect of a “new starting point” for the relationship.
Political analysts say the interactions between the two presidents were indicative of how they will cooperate to stem the threats from North Korea, cybersecurity and the growing tension in the Asia-Pacific region as President Trump moves forward through his presidency.