Xi-Trump Summit Concludes In The Shadow of U.S. Missile Strike

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Madame Peng Liyuan with President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, April 2017.


The following article by William Jones will appear in the upcoming issue of EIR.

The summit between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping was intended to provide the basis for a close relationship between these two major countries in resolving their differences and working together for the advancement of humanity. The sudden decision by the U.S. President to bomb Syria on the bogus pretext of Syrian use of chemical weapons, did not, however, disrupt the negotiations. While the Chinese delegation must have been totally taken aback by this major military operation in the midst of this important meeting, they decided not to skip a beat after President Trump informed President Xi about the bombing after the state dinner on the evening of April 6. The meetings continued with the Chinese delegation the next morning as scheduled and were concluded by early afternoon.

The chemistry between the two leaders was good. They had already established a good rapport previously through their mutual correspondence and their phone calls. There were many smiling faces during the pauses with the press during the breaks in the more serious discussions. President Trump said that the two leaders had developed and “outstanding” relationship and that “lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away”. President Xi also was quite pleased with the reception his delegation, which included four Politburo members, had been given by the President. The Summit, he said “held a uniquely important significance for the Sino-U.S. relationship.”

“President Trump made excellent preparation for our country’s representatives and gave us a warm reception,” Xi said. “We recently have had in-depth and lengthy communications to this end and arrived at many common understandings, the most important being deepening our friendship and building a kind of trust in keeping with the Sino-U.S. working relationship and friendship.”

President Trump also had most of his cabinet with him at the summit, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. President Xi also extended an invitation to President Trump to visit China this year, which President Trump readily accepted. President Xi also invited the U.S. President to join the Belt and Road Initiative.

The two presidents also established a new and cabinet-level framework for negotiations, the United States-China Comprehensive Dialogue, which will be overseen by them. This mechanism will replace the previous U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which was criticized by the Trump people as being a “talk-shop” with no practical results.  With the new format they hope to realize concrete results within a short period. The Dialogue will have four pillars: the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue; the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, the Law Enforcement and Cyber-security Dialogue, and the Social and Cultural Issues Dialogue.

The two presidents had discussed the important issues of trade and have decided to develop a 100-day action plan on trade with China which would have “way-stations of accomplishment along the way”, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. There was also a discussion regarding investment and eliminating the obstacles that remained in achieving a genuine bilateral investment treaty between the two countries  Secretary Tillerson also indicated that there had been a longer discussion on the North Korean nuclear program, with a renewed commitment by both sides to a denuclearized Korean peninsula and increased cooperation in convincing the North Koreans to give up their program although there was no “package arrangement” on the topic, he said. Tillerson said that President Xi shared the U.S. view that this situation has reached a very serious stage.

While the summit seemed to have achieved the limited goals it had set of establishing a good working relationship between the leaders and conducting a thorough discussion of the issues on which the two countries were divided, the shadow cast by the attack on Syria still remains. Some Chinese analysts have already expressed the suspicion that the operation was timed to underline the determination of the United States to use, military action, if necessary, against the DPRK, if the threat remains, thereby putting pressure on China to take a harder line against its North Korean neighbor. Although no one should be so foolish as to think that conducting any kind of military strike against the DPRK, in contrast to Syria, could be done without immediate retaliation from North Korea. The unilateral exertion of U.S. power in the Middle East also sent the subtle message that  the “major power relationship” sought by China, a relationship of equality, was still a distant goal.

The response of the Chinese Foreign Ministry to the strike was unusually muted. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on April 8 reiterated that China opposes the use of chemical weapons “by any country, organization or person for any purpose and under any circumstance.” At the same time, she said that the matter deserved a thorough UN investigation in order to really determine who was responsible “and on the basis of solid evidence, reaching a conclusion which can stand the test of history and facts.”

At the moment, “history and facts” seem to be both in abeyance with regard to the pretext for the military strike. President Trump should heed the words of the American philosopher, George Santayana, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And it looks like this could well become a repeat of the George W. Bush rush to war, again based on bogus “weapons of mass destruction” if the path embarked on is not quickly reversed. And no doubt, Chinese military strategists will be closely following the development of this sudden shift by the U.S. President in order to ferret out the significance for them—and the consequences  of this very erratic  and dangerous—military escalation.

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