'Great chemistry': Trump abandons China criticism as Russia ties suffer
Less than two months after branding China the “grand champion” of currency manipulation, Donald Trump has performed a breathtaking pirouette away from those allegations, declaring: “They’re not currency manipulators”. The Guardian reports on the situation in its article 'Great chemistry': Trump abandons China criticism as Russia ties suffer
Trump’s verdict, delivered in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, was the latest hint that ties between the world’s two largest economies were warming after the billionaire’s shock election ushered in a period of intense uncertainty that stirred fears of a trade war or even military confrontation. “We have a very good relationship, we have great chemistry together,” Trump said of Chinese president, Xi Jinping, adding: “I think his wife is terrific.”
Xi Jinping's wife Peng Liyuan
Trump also backed away from earlier criticism of Beijing’s alleged inaction over North Korea, describing how after receiving a history lesson on the subject from Xi he had come away convinced that, “it’s not so easy”.
Trump’s sudden enthusiasm for a country he has previously lampooned as a US enemy came as he proclaimed that relations with Moscow might have hit “an all-time low”. “We’re not getting along with Russia at all,” Trump said on Wednesday as last week’s airstrikes on Syria, Moscow’s key Middle Eastern ally, dominated a peppery encounter between Russian president Vladimir Putin and secretary of state Rex Tillerson.
Steven Weber, an international relations specialist from the University of California, Berkeley, said Trump’s volte-face towards China suggested pragmatism was kicking in. Facing an intractable crisis in North Korea and having been elected vowing to create jobs and improve the economy, Trump appeared to have understood that he had little choice but to build bridges with Beijing. “He’s obviously capable of understanding the numbers of a big real estate deal and so he is obviously capable of understanding projections about the number of jobs that would be lost in a significant trade spat,” Weber said. “So I’m not surprised by it that much. It’s actually consistent with much of what he said; that he wanted to try to use America’s leverage in the relationship to get slightly better deals. He wasn’t trying to break the relationship. He wasn’t trying to undermine the Chinese economy – and he certainly isn’t trying to undermine the US economy.” “Ultimately the economic relationship with China is multiple, multiple, multiple times more important than anything having to do with Russia,” Weber added.
China reacted with jubilance to Trump’s decision to withdraw his currency manipulation charges, which experts across the world have long dismissed as outdated. “He will be the best US president for China compared with any previous US president,” celebrated Shen Dingli, an international relations expert from Shanghai’s Fudan University. “He is the most friendly US president ever.” Last year, at the height of tensions between China and the incoming US president, Shen called on Beijing to close its US embassy if Trump continued to engage with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after taking up office. Following Trump’s latest conciliatory comments Shen was singing a different tune, claiming the American billionaire would receive “the warmest treatment” when he made an anticipated state visit to Beijing later this year. “He cares about business. China cares about business. He is a capitalist. China is a capitalist. Capitalists working with capitalists. It is the art of the deal; a trade of interests. I give you interests. You give me interests. It’s business,” Shen said, predicting that Beijing would respond to Trump’s overtures by offering greater collaboration on North Korea.
Li Yonghui, a China-US relations expert from Beijing’s Foreign Language University, said Trump’s change in tone and abandonment of “extreme remarks” about China suggested he was adapting to his new role and new environment. The supposed chemistry between Xi and Trump was “quite normal”, Li added, pointing to their “similar personalities and governing styles”.
Not everyone was so taken with what one China expert dubbed the “insta-bromance” between Trump and Xi. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper struggled to digest Trump’s admission that he had completely changed his views on North Korea following a brief lecture from Xi. “President Trump said ... that after listening to the Chinese president explain the history of China and North Korea for about 10 minutes he, ‘realised it’s not so easy’?” Cooper stammered. “I mean ... is that... I really am speechless.”
Trump swatted away criticism of his reversal using his favourite form of communication. “One by one we are keeping our promises,” he wrote on Twitter.