Beijing courts Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner to forge closer ties with US, analysts say
Possible China trip could pave the way for US president’s upcoming visit
Beijing is courting Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to build closer ties with the United States and lay the groundwork for US President Donald Trump’s upcoming trip to China, analysts say.
They were commenting after US officials said China had invited Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Kushner – both of whom have official jobs in the White House – to visit Beijing later this year.
Details of the trip were not disclosed and are still under discussion, but the officials said the trip could help with preparations for the US president’s visit to China, which is expected in November.
Kushner and Ivanka Trump hosted Terry Branstad, President Trump’s newly appointed ambassador to China, at Trump Hotel in Washington DC over the weekend.
Chinese analysts said the likelihood of Beijing inviting Ivanka Trump and Kushner ahead of Donald Trump’s trip was high, given the couple’s influence over his foreign policy – and in particular, Sino-US relations.
“Jared Kushner played a highly instrumental role in arranging the initial meeting between Xi [Jinping] and Trump [in Florida in April],” said Liu Weidong, an expert on US studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, referring to the Mar-a-Lago summit during which the two nations pledged to address trade imbalances and cooperate on North Korea.
“He is also a trusted member in Trump’s inner circle. So it makes sense to send him as a representative to visit China [before Trump’s visit].”
Liu added that Beijing would continue its efforts to gain access to Trump through the couple, and would be hoping that Kushner’s controversial ties with Russia won’t affect his role in the government.
Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser, has come under increased scrutiny in recent months for his foreign dealings, including reports that he attempted to set up a secret backchannel for communications with Russia during the transition period after the election.
Wu Xinbo, director of the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University, also said a China visit by Kushner and Ivanka Trump would pave the way for the US president’s trip.
“It is possible that Trump may visit China as part of his tour to Asia in November for Apec and the East Asia Summit, but the timing would depend in part on the date of the 19th Party Congress,” Wu said, referring to the key leadership reshuffle in autumn. “So Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s visit is likely to take place in September or early October.”
Officials said the invitation came after a verbal offer from Xi during his trip to the Mar-a-Lago resort, and the timing would depend in part on the date of the party congress.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Wednesday at a regular press conference that China and the US had maintained close senior-level communications but did not confirm whether there were plans for the visit.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg