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Sino-US relations

Ivanka visit ‘shows China wants to forge close ties with Trump’

President’s daughter guest at Chinese embassy reception in Washington and analysts say Beijing aware of the need to build close contacts with his family and advisers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 11:04am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 11:35pm

A decision by the Chinese embassy in Washington to invite Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka to its Lunar New Year reception last week indicates Beijing is stepping up efforts to reach out to the new US president, according to a ­diplomatic source and observers.

The high-profile visit to the Chinese embassy in Washington by Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka shows Beijing is stepping up efforts to reach out to the newly-inaugurated US president, according to a diplomatic source and observers.

The visit last Wednesday shows the embassy has built contacts with people close to Trump, amid concerns that communications between the new administration and Beijing were low-key, the analysts said.

The Chinese embassy in Washington sensed the urgency to approach Trump and believed Ivanka’s attendance at its Lunar New Year reception might bridge the communication gap after Trump did not send Spring Festival greetings to China, breaking a tradition established by his predecessors, according to the diplomatic source.

‘She really likes China’: Ivanka Trump is surprise guest at Chinese embassy’s Lunar New Year party

“Trump has a high regard for Ivanka,”the source said. “The embassy was dedicated to receiving Ivanka and made a lot of preparations.”

Ivanka Trump and her five-year-old daughter Arabella watched a music and dance performance at the event hosted by the Chinese ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai.

Wu Xinbo, director of the Centre for American studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the first daughter’s attendance proved the embassy had built contacts with “Trump’s surrounding circle”, and Chinese diplomats were well aware of her influence over her father.

Pang Zhongying, a US affairs expert at Renmin University in Beijing, said Ivanka was the highest level person close to Trump who Chinese officials have received in public.

“Trump is not a traditional politician. And it is not much use establishing contacts with him through officials or academics,” said Pan. “You have to do it through businessmen and his family.”

Donald Trump has met or had phone conversations with more than a dozen world leaders since assuming office, but President Xi Jinping remains conspicuously absent from his call list. They spoke by phone in November after Trump won the election.

But Beijing has become concerned about the lack of communication with Trump’s administration since the inauguration, according to political analysts.

Chinese Lunar New Year greeting by Donald Trump’s granddaughter sparks huge media interest

Ivanka Trump’s appearance at the embassy reception was prominently reported in China, with state television covering it in its prime time newscast.

She later posted on Instagram a video clip of her daughter singing a traditional song in Chinese while holding a red dragon string puppet.

Her daughter reportedly started learning Mandarin when she was a toddler and is interested in Chinese culture, which may be a reason why she was invited to the Chinese embassy, observers said.

Zhang Yuquan, an international relations specialist at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said Ivanka was probably given her father’s consent to visit the Chinese embassy.

Trump and his officials have openly criticised government policies in China, but members of the president’s family do have business ties with the mainland, Zhang said.

Volatile Trump gives diplomatic meetings whole new character

Ni Feng, a researcher of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing should prepare for “unorthodox” communication channels with the new US leader.

“Unlike previous presidents who are often supported by the establishment and have diplomatic channels and tools at their disposal once they take office Trump doesn’t and doesn’t care about using regular channels,” said Ni.

Beijing was relieved that Ivanka Trump attended the Chinese embassy’s reception, according to Ni, as it showed the new US administration was “still aware of the protocol in Chinese culture”.