The “positive and productive” meetings between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump in Florida last week have facilitated the smooth transition of China-US ties and made the relationship more solid, researchers said.
In what The New York Times called “the most important diplomatic encounter of his presidency so far”, Trump, about 70 days into his presidency, spent more than seven hours with his Chinese guest on April 6-7, discussing bilateral and global issues and building a personal rapport, while charting the course for a new era in the world’s most important bilateral relationship.
“Both on his campaign trail and in post-inauguration days, President Trump had used much rhetoric about China,” said Tao Wenzhao, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “We had no clue as to what actions the new administration will take on China, how their relations will proceed, and whether previous bilateral exchange and cooperative mechanisms will prevail.”
The meetings at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, called “positive and productive” by the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, have helped end the transition period and greatly curtailed the uncertainties haunting bilateral relations due to the administration change in the US, Tao told China Daily.
He said the new mechanism of dialogue between the world’s two largest economies, endorsed by both presidents during the visit, will play a crucial role in building a more balanced and solid bilateral relationship, one characterized by no conflict and no confrontation.
During the meeting, the two leaders agreed to elevate existing bilateral talks to reflect the importance of making progress on key issues, a US statement said.
The US-China Comprehensive Dialogue will be overseen by the two presidents and will have four pillars to deal with major issues: security, economic relations, cybersecurity and law enforcement and people-to-people exchanges, according to statements from both sides.
There is a big change in the new arrangement compared with the China-US High-Level
Consultation on People-to-People Exchange and US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Tao said.
Among the four pillars, the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue and the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue were kicked off during Xi’s visit. Taking part were Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi, along with US State Secretary Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“The Comprehensive Dialogue will be a mechanism second only to a presidential summit in terms of importance,” Tao said. “In particular, the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, similar to the ‘2 plus 2′ talks between the US and its alliance, has never been conducted between China and the US before.”
This will add more weight to the security exchange in bilateral relations, Tao said, adding the two presidents’ promise to enhance mutual trust on military security is noteworthy, as military exchange used to be an area of weakness in bilateral relations.
“The new mechanism is an innovation, and we cannot emphasize too much its role in building up China-US relations,” Tao said.
Ruan Zongze, executive deputy president of the China Institute of International Studies, agreed that by setting a framework for China-US ties, the Trump-Xi meeting could reduce uncertainties in the future and help avoid any strategic miscalculations.
Neither China nor the US alone could effectively cope with the mounting complexities and challenges of the world, Ruan said in an article posted on Wechat.
“The international community has rising expectations of China-US relations,” he said. “When elephants fight, the grass gets hurt. Such embarrassment must be avoided.”
Ruan is scheduled to host a discussion titled “The Mar-a-Lago meeting: a new starting point for China-US relations” in Beijing on Wednesday.