Chinese President Xi Jinping looks set to achieve his key goals in Thursday’s presidential summit in Florida with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, and will likely pledge inward investment in U.S. jobs in return, analysts told RFA.
Trump will hold his first meeting with Xi on Thursday amid a growing nuclear crisis with North Korea and domestic pressure to win trade concessions from China.
The Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, said China will also be looking to see its own goals met.
“The precondition for a successful meeting is a win-win situation for both countries rather than benefits for the U.S. only,” the paper said in an editorial ahead of the summit on Thursday and Friday.
But Chinese political commentators said Xi has likely already secured his government’s goals in pre-summit meetings behind the scenes.
The two presidents will meet at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, where they will dine together with their wives. Their summit will conclude with a working lunch on Friday.
While Trump’s priorities center around his 2016 election campaign promises to stop the “theft of U.S. jobs by China,” Xi’s have likely already been addressed, political columnist Wei Pu said in a commentary broadcast on RFA’s Cantonese Service.
One China policy
In particularly, Washington will already have promised to reiterate support for the One China policy, which effectively bars democratically governed Taiwan from recognition by any country that has a bilateral relationship with Beijing.
“Xi Jinping will definitely have made sure, before heading to Florida, that the U.S. side promised to repeat its commitment to the One China policy … as a prerequisite to allowing the meeting with Trump to go ahead,” Wei wrote. “We are very likely to see [it] in the joint communique produced by the meeting.”
The Global Times said the main point of the meeting for China was establishing “the political foundation of this bilateral relationship,” in a reference to the One China policy.
“The way the two countries engage with each other were challenged by Trump’s unique governance style,” the paper said in a reference to Trump’s phone call with Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen shortly after being elected that angered Beijing. “It is expected that the meeting can consolidate the political basis of bilateral ties and pave the way for future communications.”
It also said that the North Korea nuclear issue is of “immense significance for the dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region and even the world.”
Another priority for the ruling Chinese Communist Party is the establishment of a new narrative around the bilateral relationship, which Beijing frames as “a new relationship between two major powers,” Wei said.
This goal, at a meeting that is widely expected to set the tone for the future bilateral relationship, also appears to be in the bag for Xi.
“The U.S. Secretary of State expressed his acceptance of this [concept] … when he visited China in March,” Wei wrote.
He said foreign minister Yang Jiechi has already asked the Trump administration to accept a proposal from Xi Jinping for a new relationship emphasizing “the avoidance of conflict, a focus on cooperation and a one-way promise from Trump not to intervene in any of China’s core interests, namely, Taiwan, Tibet and China’s internal affairs.”
“In return, Xi Jinping is likely to offer something back to Trump in terms of the trading relationship, helping Trump to create more American jobs,” Wei said.
‘A very difficult’ meeting
In a nod to the blue-collar workers who helped propel him to election victory on Nov. 8, Trump tweeted last week that his meeting with Xi “will be a very difficult one,” and that the U.S. will no longer tolerate massive trade deficits and job losses.
“With Chinese money and U.S. labor, they could revitalize the U.S. manufacturing base,” Wei predicted. “This would be the best outcome for cooperation from Trump’s point of view.”
He said inbound Chinese investment in overseas industries is an increasingly familiar move in China’s diplomatic playbook.
“China is very keen on, and has become well-known for, its transactional diplomacy, while Trump is an old master of deal-making,” Wei wrote. “It is here than U.S. and Chinese interests elide, giving Trump plenty of good material for him to boast with on Twitter.”
He said Trump’s relative lack of political experience would be no match for Chinese political veteran Xi, however.
Political commentator Fu Shenqi agreed.
“It is definitely not exaggerating to call him a strongman,” Fu wrote of Xi in a commentary that aired on RFA’s Mandarin Service. “We haven’t seen a party emperor with so much power concentrated in his hands to a degree even more than [late supreme leader] Mao Zedong in recent years, at least on the face of it.”
“Xi’s core ideology is pretty straightforward,” he said. “He wants to protect the Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorial grip on power for all eternity.”
With that in mind, Xi’s aides will be desperate to avoid any hitches that interfere with their president’s international image ahead of a critical political meeting of the Chinese leadership later in the year, analysts said.
Xi “cannot afford to lose face while China aspires to be the new center of gravity for the world order,” China political analyst Willy Lam told Agence France-Presse.
“[Both leaders] want to project themselves as very forceful, very decisive and also getting the best for the benefit of their own countries,” Lam said. “[But] they are also anxious not to get into difficult negotiating positions.”
Reported by RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.