Our writer, Yeji Lee, provides a detailed account of Trump’s visit to China.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump deplaned at Beijing Airport on Nov 8, in Beijing, China to a military lineup and a crowd waving American and Chinese flags.
His arrival also meant updates to his Twitter account, despite China’s ban on Twitter.
“The President will tweet whenever he wants. That’s his way of communicating directly with the American people,” a senior administration official said.
Trump’s tweets have ranged from thanking China for its hospitality to warnings directed towards North Korea. His Twitter header was temporarily changed to a photo of himself, First Lady Melania Trump, President Xi and Xi’s wife Peng Liyuan, surrounded by Chinese performers.
But despite his disregard for China’s firewall, Trump’s tone in China differed from that in his visits to Japan and South Korea. In the previous countries on his tour, Trump had donned his usual belligerent attitude: he boasted of US military strength and insisted that the leaders purchase more US weapons and artillery. In China, however, Trump’s tone was meeker and more agreeable.
His previous hostility towards China, which included accusations China of “raping” the US, were nowhere to be found; instead, they were replaced with praises of China’s trade practices.
“I don’t blame China,” Trump said during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People. “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit.”
In return, China treated Trump like faux-royalty, rolling out red carpets and arranging an official dinner in the Forbidden Palace. President Trump is the first foreign leader to dine in the Forbidden City since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. There, he and the First Lady also attended a Peking opera performance.
November 9, 2017
The following day, Nov 9, was Trump’s first full day of ceremonies and meetings in China. At 9:17am local, Trump’s motorcade arrived at the Great Hall of the People for an official welcoming ceremony, where he was greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan.
As Trump and Xi stood side by side, a Chinese military band played the US and Chinese national anthems and ceremonial cannons were fired in Tiananmen Square nearby. Trump and Xi then walked on a red carpet and paused in front of the military band as it played “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Xi and Trump entered the Great Hall at 9:34am, followed by US and Chinese officials.
At 11:12am local, a bilateral joint appearance was held by the two leaders in a room at the Great Hall of the People. No questions from the press were permitted during the meeting. According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, “It was at the Chinese insistence there were no questions today.”
At the meeting, US and Chinese delegations sat at parallel long tables. Trump and Xi sat in the middle of their respective parties, facing each other.
President Trump said he had “great respect” for Xi in matters of trade and blamed former US presidents “for allowing this trade deficit to take place and to grow” between the US and China. He went on to say that Xi was just representing China’s interests, but that now he and Xi will “make it fair and it’ll be tremendous to both of us.”
“We want a vibrant trade relationship with China,” Trump continued. “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.”
In regards to North Korea, Trump said to Xi: “I do believe there’s a solution to that, as do you.”
At the meeting, Xi encouraged China and the US to “put aside and diffuse differences while at the same time building common ground.”
Without mentioning North Korea by name, Xi acknowledged that as two distinctive countries, the US and China are sure to have different views on certain issues. “This is natural,” he continued. “They key is to properly handle and manage them.”
Stating that the China-US relationship is at a “new starting point,” Xi asserted that “China is ready to work with the United States to enhance cooperation and properly manage differences in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit.”
State dinner at the Great Hall of the People
Later that day, around 6:30pm local, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attended a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People. At the dinner, President Xi offered up a toast to Trump and welcomed him once again to China.
Alluding to the long history between the US and China, President Xi stated that though the two countries once walked with animosity, they now “share far more and broader common interests, as well as greater and stronger responsibilities in upholding global peace and promoting common development.”
Xi asserted that during Trump’s state visit to China, the two leaders have “mapped out a blueprint for advancing China-U.S. relations.”
“We both agree that China and the United States should remain partners, not rivals,” Xi continued. We both agree that when we work together, we can accomplish many great things to the benefit of our two countries and the whole world.”
“To the friendship between China and the United States, and between our people and to the health of you, President Trump, Mrs. Trump, and all our sides present, cheers.”
In response, President Trump expressed his and the First Lady’s gratitude to President Xi and his wife for their hospitality.
“It is my hope, Trump continued, “that the proud spirits of the American and Chinese people will inspire our efforts to achieve a more just, secure, and peaceful world, a future worthy of the sacrifices of our ancestors, and the dreams of our children.”
A video of Trump’s granddaughter, Arabella, reciting traditional Chinese songs and poetry was shown after the toasts. “Our children so often remind us of our shared humanity and true dignity,” Trump commented as he introduced the video.
A statement by the White House disclosed that during the President’s visit to China, Trump and Xi reaffirmed their commitment to denuclearizing North Korea and “together affirmed a commitment to fully implement the DPRK U.N. Security Council resolutions to pressure DPRK to eliminate its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”
Trade and investment deals worth more than $250 billion were announced, and the President “pressed China to reduce the trade deficit by eliminating barriers to trade, guaranteeing fair and reciprocal treatment to United States companies and exports, and implementing market-oriented reforms,” the statement continued.
Trump left China for Danang, Vietnam earlier today, on Nov 10, where he will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit and meet President Tran Dai Quang of Vietnam. First Lady Melania Trump remained an extra day in China, where she visited a zoo and the Great Wall of China before returning to Washington.