One week before their first in-person meeting, President Trump told the world on Twitter that he expected the dialogue with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to be “a very difficult one” unless China was prepared to make major concessions on issues like trade and North Korea. At Mar-a-Lago, however, the two leaders appeared to build a congenial rapport. Shortly following their meeting, Paul Haenle spoke with Dr. Zha Daojiong—a professor in the School of International Studies at Peking University and a senior Arthur Ross fellow at the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society—to discuss his reaction to the summit.
Zha said that the summit’s outcomes surpassed his expectations. He argued that Xi felt domestic pressure to prove he could both stabilize China’s relationship with the United States and gain American cooperation on Chinese priorities in the region. Zha hoped the newly established U.S.-China Comprehensive Dialogue would be an improvement upon the current Strategic and Economic Dialogue, particularly given that this new mechanism is chaired by Trump and Xi themselves. While he viewed the concurrent missile strike on Syria during the summit as an unplanned coincidence, he emphasized that many Chinese viewed the timing as purposeful. Overall, Zha felt President Trump and the new U.S. administration are growing into their roles and becoming more pragmatic, paving the way for a more stable U.S.-China relationship.
Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Prior to joining Carnegie, he served from June 2007 to June 2009 as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Zha Daojiong is professor in the School of International Studies at Peking University and a senior Arthur Ross fellow at the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. He specializes in energy security and China’s foreign economic policies.