China’s President Xi Jinping mentioned “negative elements” to China’s relationship with the US during a phone call with President Trump on Monday. The statement marks Xi’s first public mention of the rising tensions between the two nations since Trump’s many campaign comments suggesting punitive action against China on trade and other issues. Since Trump’s inauguration, he has largely taken a more diplomatic approach US relations with China, as the president has tried to gain China’s help reigning in North Korea’s nuclear program.
According to Chinese state broadcaster China Central Central television, Xi said Monday during the phone call:
“Ties are also affected by some negative elements, and the Chinese side has already expressed our stance to the U.S. China and the U.S. should tightly grasp the overall direction of development based on the consensus we reached at Mar-a-Lago.”
Trump expression frustration in a tweet last month criticizing China for not doing more to stop North Korean aggression. Other members of the administration have also returned to tougher positions on China in recent months when it comes to trade. Analysts believe there is a risk that the Trump administration could return to their harder line on China discussed during the campaign, levying tariffs or advancing relations with Taiwan, moves that could prompt retaliation from China.
According to foreign affairs advisor and dean of Peking University’s diplomacy department, Jia Qingguo, “China-U.S. ties have somewhat cooled a bit from their giddy heights after the Mar-a-Lago summit. This climb-down was within expectations, because China cannot single-handedly deliver on North Korea.”
The White House released a summary of the call that said “both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula” and that Trump “reiterated his determination to seek more balanced trade relations with America’s trading partners.”
A Sunday editorial in state-run China Daily, in a piece called “It’s unwise for Washington to play the Taiwan card,” said:
“Going overboard in trying to put pressure on Beijing may prove counterproductive, since it will simply prompt a tit-for-tat response from which the U.S. will not emerge unbruised.”
The leaders meet again at a G20 summit that starts this Friday in Hamburg, Germany, giving another opportunity to discuss the range of concerns.
“I do find the ‘honeymoon’s over’ conclusion a bit premature,” said Jia. “The G-20 summit will provide another chance for President Xi and Trump, who have already established good personal relationship, to catch up and maybe repair things a bit.”