Could Donald Trump be heading to China to settle trade row after tweeting he wants to ‘be with’ Xi Jinping?

US President tweets about ‘good (great) relationship’ with Chinese counterpart as two sides begin trade negotiations in Beijing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 12:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 11:31pm

US President Donald Trump has tweeted that he hopes to “be with” his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in the not too distant future as a high-level American delegation arrived in Beijing amid the looming threat of a trade war between the two sides.

Despite Trump’s unpredictability, some Chinese observers argued that the tweet may indicate that China could be the venue for Trump’s planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Trump said a “great financial team” was trying to ensure a “level playing field” on trade and added:

“I look forward to being with President Xi in the not too distant future. We will always have a good (great) relationship!”

Although no details about his planned summit with the North Korean leader have been released yet, Trump is expected to meet the North Korean leader later this month or in June.

Chinese diplomatic observers have said he could meet Xi after talking to Kim.

The venue for the talks between Trump and Kim has not been decided, but several places such as Singapore and Mongolia have been tipped to host the event.

China ‘won’t bow to US pressure and is ready to fight to the end’ if a trade war breaks out

Another possibility is South Korea’s border truce village of Panmunjom, where Kim met his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in last week. South Korea’s presidential office said on Thursday that the village would mark a new milestone of peace if it was chosen.

On Monday, Trump wrote on Twitter: “Numerous countries are being considered for the MEETING, but would Peace House/Freedom House, on the Border of North & South Korea, be a more Representative, Important and Lasting site than a third party country?”

Following Trump’s latest tweet, Lu Xiang, an American affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, speculated: “It is possible that the talks between the US and North Korea will be held in China, for example, in a northeastern city.

Trump’s warm words towards Xi also raised hopes that the two sides may be able to reach a consensus in the trade talks

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“If the two nations are divided over some issues, then Xi and Trump may engage in direct talks,” Lu said.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is leading the trade talks for the US and arrived in Beijing on Thursday. The discussions, led by Vice-Premier Liu He for Beijing, will cover American concerns, including forced technology transfers and the US trade deficit with China.

“Thrilled to be here,” Mnuchin told reporters on arriving at his hotel, while making no further comment.

The US embassy in Beijing said the delegation would meet Chinese officials for two days, as well as holding talks with the US Ambassador in China, Terry Branstad.

The US delegation planned to leave on Friday evening, the statement added. 

A Chinese government official close to the talks said on Wednesday Beijing would not succumb to US pressure to change its industrial policy nor offer major concessions over the US trade deficit.

A guide to the US-China trade talks: can the two squabbling powerhouses defuse the tension?

A commentary by the state-run Xinhua news agency said the US should not set any preconditions for talks and show sincerity in its negotiations.

The Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said it hoped the talks were the start of a resolution to the trade disputes.

“Washington and Beijing should be clear: neither side can scare the other down. Negotiations are the best way to resolve the problem.”

Additional reporting by Reuters and Wendy Wu