US-CHINA RELATIONS
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Donald Trump

Xi Jinping tells Donald Trump cooperation is the only choice for China and the US

Chinese leader spoke to the US president-elect by phone on Monday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 9:39am

President Xi Jinping said stepping up cooperation is the only choice for China and the US, in his first telephone conversation with president-elect Donald Trump on Monday.

In the call, Xi told Trump, who was strongly critical of China during his campaign, that the two should “meet at an early date” to discuss bilateral ties, state-run Xinhua reported.

Xi had already sent a congratulatory message to Trump following the Republican’s unexpected election victory last Tuesday.

What does a Trump presidency mean for China?

Observers said Beijing was wary of possible turbulence in Sino-US ties under the Trump ­administration, and wanted to establish contact with the incoming president as early as possible.

During his election campaign, Trump vowed to impose a tariff of 45 per cent on Chinese exports to the US.

Even Sino-US cooperation on climate change – trumpeted by ­officials from both nations as a sign that the two sides can still work together despite having differences – is facing uncertainty because Trump has vowed to cancel the Paris Agreement that was signed last December.

In yesterday’s call, Xi told Trump that he held the Sino-US relationship in high regard and that the two nations should ­expand their cooperation.

“Cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the US,” Xi was quoted as saying.

“Currently, there is an important opportunity and immense potential for Sino-US cooperation. Both sides need to strengthen coordination to push for economic growth among themselves and the world.”

Xi and Trump vowed to “keep close contact, build a good working relationship and meet at an early date to exchange views on issues of mutual interest and ­development of bilateral ties,” Xinhua reported.

One day before the phone conversation, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China stood ready to further promote its relations with the US.

It was a consensus among both the Republican Party and the Democrats to deepen Sino-US ties, Wang added.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Monday that China took a “positive attitude” towards the US infrastructure plan proposed by Trump to create jobs.

Over the weekend, China’s envoy to Washington, Cui Tian­kai, said he was confident that ­cooperation between China and the US would continue under the Trump administration.

China looks to forging effective partnership with Trump administration, says ambassador

Relations between China and the United States have been marred by tension under President Barack Obama, with the two nations locking horns over the US “pivot to Asia”, cybersecurity and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal that excludes China.

Trump has indicated he is not interested in the TPP, and that the United States might be less engaged in Asia under his watch, which some critics said might give Beijing more space to flex its muscles in the region.

But it remains to be seen how far Trump will go to implement his election pledges. Even if the US reduced its presence in the Asia- Pacific region, it is uncertain whether this would be a strategic opportunity for Beijing.

US pivot to Asia ‘likely to continue on smaller scale’ under Trump

Trump’s advisers have said the new administration would boost US military capability – a move that Beijing might not want to see.

“The call reflected the fact that Chinese leaders want to know Donald Trump as early as possible, at a time when world leaders fear whether he will really act as a responsible leader when he is in office next year,” Yuan Zheng, a specialist on the United States at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.

Fu Mengzi, an observer of Sino-American relations at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Xi’s phone conversation with Trump was a sign that China wanted to get over the transition period with the incoming US administration as quickly as possible.

“Trump’s administration has the most uncertainties among the last few US administrations, and his unique personality will bring changes to US dealings in international relations,” Fu said.

Trump, trade and the US pivot to Asia: what lies ahead?

Xi sent a congratulatory message hours after Trump won the election, saying the world’s two biggest economies shared a responsibility for promoting global development and prosperity.

State-run CCTV originally reported that Xi sent the message by phone, but later retracted the report. Trump said in The Wall Street Journal last Friday that he had spoken with or heard from “most” leaders except Xi.