In a surprise turn of events, President Donald Trump (of the United States, lest you get it wrong), said he doesn’t blame China for taking advantage of the U.S. as far as trade practices go. The man who was elected largely on his desire to hold other countries accountable for engaging in trade practices that put U.S. workers at a disadvantage seemed to jump the fence to the other side as he said: “I give China great credit.”
Trump’s statements come as more than a bit of a surprise, to say the least. Even the $250 billion in trade agreements that he announced don’t make that much of a dent in America’s trade deficit with China. More importantly, many of these agreements were in the pipeline before he took over as president.
Instead of jumping on China for its so-called unfair trade practices, Trump turned on his own government, blaming past administrations “for allowing this trade deficit to take place and grow.”
This was after an intense discussion between the two state leaders that lasted at least two hours inside the Great Hall on the western edge of Tiananmen Square. In statements after the talk, Trump said:
“We want a vibrant trade relationship with China. We also want a fair and reciprocal one. Today, I discussed with President Xi the chronic imbalance in our relationship as it pertains to trade and the concrete steps it will take to solve the problem of massive trade distortion.”
Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping also took a more conciliatory tone, saying:
“As two distinctive countries our two sides may have different views or differences on some issues. This is natural. The key is to properly handle and manage them.”
On the North Korea issue, Trump appeared to make a call for China to do more, but in an indirect way, asking for “responsible nations” to stop financing with the “murderous North Korean regime.”
Xi once again made a commitment to “fully implement UN Security Council resolutions,” but little evidence of that has actually been seen.
Trump also buckled under Chinese insistence that there be no questions from reporters, a wide deviation from preceding presidents as far back as Bill Clinton, all of whom convinced their then-counterparts in China to take questions.
The trip to China could come as a major disappointment to many who were under the impression that he could somehow strong-arm the nation into conceding in critical areas. But far from it, the trip was a bad case of intense diplomacy, and little else.