Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Xi Jinping holds all the cards ahead of Mar-a-Lago meeting with Trump










































































































































Xi Jinping holds all the cards ahead of Mar-a-Lago meeting with Trump
In stark contrast to the Chinese leader’s unchallenged authority, Donald Trump is in a far weaker position
Image result for Xi Jinping holds all the cards ahead of Mar-a-Lago meeting with Trump
Image result for Xi Jinping holds all the cards ahead of Mar-a-Lago meeting with Trump
At a secretive gathering of the Chinese Communist party’s most senior officials, a room-full of middle aged men in dark suits convened under a gold hammer and sickle and raised their hands in unison to declare president Xi Jinping the country’s “core” leader.
The meeting last October elevated Xi to a level comparable with that of the country’s revolutionary leader Mao Zedong – and demonstrated just how successful the president has been at consolidating his control of the world’s most populous country.
This week Xi will travel to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a meeting that will set the tone for one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships.



But in stark contrast to Xi’s unchallenged authority, Donald Trump is in a far weaker position, with his administration entangled in investigations into alleged ties with Russia and unable to deliver so far the policies he promised.
The US president will also need to reassure longstanding allies, including Japan, South Korea and Australia, who are wary of China’s rapid rise and have relied on the US to counter China’s influence in the region.

‘China is stable, the US is divided’

“Trump’s team is very anxious, they are facing a lot of resistance at home with Congress and protests,” said Zhang Haibin, a professor of international relations at Peking University in Beijing. “The two leaders’ domestic political situation isn’t the same: Xi Jinping is ‘the core’ and China is very stable. Trump has yet to establish his authority in the US and is facing a divided society.”

Ahead of the meeting with Xi, Trump has set the stage for a major confrontation over trade and security issues. Trump used Twitter to predict discussions would be “very difficult” and on Sunday the Financial Times published an interview where Trump chastised China for failing to do enough to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program.Trump’s China strategy has yet to fully form, and the US administration is severely lacking in Asia experts, Zhang added.
“I think the president has been pretty clear in messaging about how important it is for China to coordinate with the United States and for China to begin exerting its considerable economic leverage to bring about a peaceful resolution to that problem,” a senior US official said.
The official noted that just under 90% of North Korea’s external trade is with China.
“So even though we hear that China’s political influence may have diminished, clearly its economic leverage has not. It is considerable,” he added. “We would like to work on North Korea together. We have spent 20 years of trying pretty much everything to bring about a safe and denuclearised peninsular so this is in some ways a test of the relationship.”



Although the Trump administration has declared the efforts of earlier administrations a failure, and promised a new approach, the attempt to cajole China into putting more pressure on its impoverished and troublesome neighbour by more rigorous implementation of existing UN sanctions represents a continuation of the Obama administration’s policies.
Secretary of state Rex Tillerson and others in the administration have used the line “all options are on the table”, and senior officials talked on Tuesday night about “the clock running out” on diplomacy. But most military analysts say any preventative or punitive strike against Pyongyang could have disastrous consequences with devastating North Korean firepower falling on Seoul and a possible use of the regime’s nuclear warheads.
Trump has made clear he wants concessions on reducing the US trade deficit with China and more cooperation on controlling North Korea, but Xi has made no demands – in part because he has already wrangled political concessions from the US.
Soon after his election victory in November, Trump said he could use the status of Taiwan – a self-ruled democracy that China claims as part of its territory – as a bargaining chip. But in his first phone call with Xi, he agreed to uphold the “One China” policy – the diplomatic understanding by which Washington does not challenge China’s claim to the territory.




“Xi does not need to get very much, the mere fact of the meeting looks good and will play well domestically in China,” said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China power project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies thinktank in Washington.

Xi is likely to steer clear of any issues that will anger Trump, having drawn from the lesson of a call between Trump and the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, where discussions over resettling refugees ended with Trump reportedly cutting the call short.“It demonstrates he has a good relationship with the new president and can maintain a stable relationship with the US. Xi doesn’t have any big asks, whereas Trump does.”
The Chinese president is currently preparing for a critical Communist party meeting later this year that will see a reshuffle among the country’s leaders, and he is unlikely to make major economic reforms until after that. In the interim Xi will likely come to Mar-a-Lago with business deals that create jobs or reduce the amount of steel being dumped in the US.
Since China does not have specific goals for the meeting, it is largely a fact-finding mission and a chance for Xi to show he can stand up to Trump’s tough talk.
“China needs to understand the attitude of the United States, Trump’s real intentions, and use that to form the basis of developing relations,” Li Yonghui, an expert on US-China relations at Beijing Foreign Studies University. “Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty in the relationship, and both countries need to find some common ground in this meeting.
“In economic terms, China may make certain concessions, but it’s still unclear how far China will go.”

‘There will be no golf’

Trump’s decision to host the Chinese leader at his country club – as opposed to the more formal setting of Washington – reflected a desire to hold frank talks with his Chinese counterpart, Li said.


“There will be time particularly on the first day for them to get to know one another in a more informal interaction as well as a dinner,” a senior US official said. However, Xi’s lack of interest in Trump’s favourite sport meant the US president will not be able to indulge in his usual icebreaking routine.
“I think its safe to say there will be no golf,” the official said. “It’s possible that they will walk around a bit as the mood strikes, but nothing formal and nothing involving golf clubs.”
But there is already some common ground between the two leaders.
“Both these guys are strong willed people and overly self confident,” Glaser said.
Trump’s administration has already demonstrated a preference for informal networks of trusted advisers – a tendency that mirrors China’s own political culture.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly has a good relationship with Chinese officials and helped arrange this week’s summit, and he is generally considered far more influential on foreign policy than secretary of state Rex Tillerson.
Anbang Insurance Group, a firm with close ties to Beijing’s political elite, was widely reported to be in talks to invest $4bn with Kushner and his family’s real estate company, but the deal collapsed amid ethics concerns.
“Chinese people love nepotism, we’re very good at it,” Zhang said. “Chinese people have been using social networks and influential relationships to facilitate business and political dealings for thousands of years.”
While Xi has tried to avoid signs of nepotism as he undertakes a widespread anti-corruption campaign, reports have emerged that his family members became wealthy as he rose through the ranks.
In many ways the first meeting between the two leaders could come to define how the US and China define their respective roles in the world: many US allies fear Trump is simply uninterested in leading the liberal order as the US has done for decades. Xi on the other hand makes no effort to hide the fact he wants China to upend that order.
“The two have very different ambitions: Xi Jinping has global ambitions to lead the world and Trump is still stuck at the national level,” Zhang said.