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Published: Wed, April 05, 2017
Business | By Cristina Jennings

Xi meeting watched for clues of future relationship

Xi meeting watched for clues of future relationship

USA stocks were little changed on Tuesday, trading in a tight range, as investors fretted over the ability of President Donald Trump to deliver on his policy plans, and ahead of his potentially tense meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The summit, which begins Thursday, is being closely monitored in both countries after a bumpy start to perhaps the most important bilateral relationship in the world.

As personalities, Xi and Trump are a study in contrasts.

Xi and Trump will meet at the President's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida later this week for a series of high-stakes sit-downs.

The Trump administration is actually viewed as taking some stances helpful to China's goals, such as withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and, so far, it has not authorized any "freedom of navigation" exercises in the disputed South China Sea waters and airspace Beijing claims as its own. That is all I am telling you.

A diplomatic solution, however, can be achieved only if the U.S. and China cooperate closely and do not repeat past mistakes. About six in 10 polled saw the current USA economic situation as either very or somewhat good compared with four in 10 in 2015.

This week's meeting comes early in Trump's administration, before large slates of key administration posts are filled.

"It's not yet clear whether ... this is a White House that wants to fundamentally reset the terms of the relationship or tinker at the edges and declare a public relations win", said a China expert at a Washington business lobby who asked not to be named.

That's led to some incertitude about what, precisely, Trump hopes to accomplish when he sits down with Xi on Thursday and Friday.

China tops the list of countries who have trade surpluses with the United States, with a $347 billion surplus a year ago. Other issues are tangential for Trump.

Xi reportedly would not get on the phone with Trump until the US president reaffirmed the policy.

China has warned the USA not to get involved in its disputes with other nations over the South China Sea.

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AND P.S., FROM YOUR U.N. AMBASSADOR: Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, also had some tough talk over the weekend - but it conflicted with the president's.

Based in Beijing, Travis Tanner is president of the U.S.

The new trade orders come a week before the president meets with China's president.

China, Xiong said, realizes that Trump "is a leader with a strong personality". This reticence is due to China's fears of a refugee influx it can not control if the North Korean regime collapses, and its fear of losing a buffer state on its border.

"They need to show us how concerned they are".

Increased tensions in North Korea would nearly certainly prompt an larger USA military presence in Northeast Asia, encroaching on what China increasingly sees as its sphere of influence. "There's no doubt about that".

The Trump team has also talked tough on the South China Sea as well.

The timing of Trump's threat is odd. The US President has already telegraphed via Twitter that he expects the meeting to be "very difficult" because of the "massive trade deficits". "American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives", he wrote on Twitter. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has not commented on the status of that review. There are reports of China's diplomatic establishment having learned that the best way to reach and influence Trump is via his family.

Trump himself spoke with Xi for the first time in February after an extended period of silence. But the policy was recently thrown into disarray when Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan's president.

Xi will hope he is greeted by Trump the gracious host rather than the rhetorical bomb thrower who has spoken about China's "rape" of the U.S. economy and predicted a "very difficult" meeting with Xi.

However, Keane's statements to The Times indicate that he's lost faith in diplomacy as a tool: "Our last three presidents spanning over 20 years have failed to stop the North Korean nuclear program", he said.

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