U.S. President Donald Trump sought to present a united front with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday following two days of meetings, despite lingering differences over trade and North Korea.
On trade, Trump criticized the “very one-sided and unfair” trade relationship between the U.S. and China but stopped short of castigating Xi by saying he doesn’t blame the country for having taken advantage of the United States
Trump said China “must immediately address the unfair trade practices that drive” what he said is a “shockingly” large trade deficit, along with barriers to market access, forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered a blunter assessment of China’s trade surplus with the United States, which in October widened by 12.2 percent from a year earlier, to $26.6 billion. The total surplus with the United States for the first 10 months of the year was $223 billion.
Tillerson also acknowledged that there are differences in strategy and timing when it came to Chinese action on reining in North Korea. But he insisted that the two countries are essentially on the same page.
Trump and Tillerson’s comments came during Trump’s second and final day in China and after lengthy meetings with Xi. The day included announcements that the U.S. and China had signed agreements valued at more than $250 billion for products including U.S.-made jet engines, auto parts, liquefied natural gas and beef.
Such contract signings are a fixture of foreign leader visits to Beijing and are intended to defuse foreign complaints about China’s trade policies.
North Korea was another focus of the talks. Before arriving in China, Trump had delivered a stern message to Beijing, using an address in South Korea to call on China, North Korea’s biggest trade partner, to do more to confront and isolate the antagonistic nation. That included urging China to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at depriving the North’s government of revenue for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Trump on Thursday appeared far more conciliatory, thanking China for its efforts and saying he had been encouraged by his conversations.
While Trump urged China to do more to force North Korea to curb its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Xi stressed the importance of dialogue in checking Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
Trump and Xi agreed to keep enforcing U.N. sanctions on North Korea until it rids itself of nuclear weapons.
During a 2014 visit by then-President Barack Obama, Xi took a symbolic single question from a reporter for a Chinese state newspaper.
Trump, who has called the press the “enemy of the American people,” also took no questions Thursday.
Chinese censors meanwhile scrubbed nearly all comments about Trump’s visit from China’s lively internet forums.
Trump had made narrowing the multibillion-dollar U.S. trade deficit with China a priority for his administration. During the presidential campaign, he accused China of “raping our country” on trade and pledged to minimize the countries’ trade imbalance.
For his part, Xi promised a more open business environment for foreign companies in China and said his country was committed to further opening its economy to foreign investment.
The United States and other trading partners have been pressing Beijing to give their companies more access to its state-dominated economy. But it remains unclear how far China will go to fulfill its pledges. Previous U.S. administrations have hailed market-opening promises only to be left disappointed.
Following the talks between Trump and Xi, the Foreign Ministry said China will “substantially” ease access to its financial industry.
Sectors including banking, securities and funds, and insurance will see easier entry requirements in accordance with China’s own timetable and road map, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.
The statement also said that China urged the U.S. to push forward China International Capital Corp.’s application for a U.S. financial license.
The ministry also said China will start a pilot program to relax restrictions on the ownership by foreign firms of special-use vehicle businesses in free trade zones.
The ministry also said it will gradually cut tariffs for vehicles.
Before the meetings, China rolled out the red carpet for Trump, treating him to an elaborate welcome ceremony on the plaza outside the Great Hall of the People before the leaders turned to their private talks.
Trump looked on approvingly as a Chinese honor guard played the national anthems of both countries, cannons boomed and soldiers marched. He clapped and smiled as children waving U.S. and Chinese flags and flowers screamed and jumped wildly.
Trump said the welcome “was truly memorable and impressive and something I will never forget.”
Trump went around and over the “Great Firewall” of China in a late-night tweet in Beijing as he thanked his hosts for a rare tour of the Forbidden City and a private dinner at the sprawling, centuries-old palace complex.
Many Western social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, are banned in China. A sophisticated system has been built to deny online users within China access to blocked content.
That was not an issue for Trump, known for tweeting to his 42.3 million followers at any hour of the day, on Wednesday, the day he arrived in Beijing.
Trump even changed his Twitter banner, uploading a photograph of himself and Melania with Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, during a Chinese opera performance at the Forbidden City.
The Twitter banner upload did not go unnoticed by Chinese state media, with state broadcaster CCTV flashing screenshots of the photograph on Thursday.
Trump’s visit was also the third-most talked-about topic on the Chinese social media platform Weibo over the last 24 hours, trailing only the birthday of a singer in a Chinese boy band and a weekly Asian pop chart.
Many people wondered how Trump managed to evade China’s tough internet controls. Many foreigners log on to virtual private networks (VPNs) to access content hosted outside of China. Another option is to sign up for a data-roaming service before leaving one’s home country.
When asked whether China considers Trump’s use of Twitter to be in breach of Chinese law, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said there were many means of communication with “the outside world.”
Source: News agencies