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Trump once trashed China. Now, they're friends

09 November 2017

Trump arrived in Beijing on Wednesday afternoon from South Korea for a two-night stop in the Chinese capital as part of his marathon Asia tour.

Despite disagreements over trade and North Korea, the two leaders and their wives were all smiles as they ambled through the former imperial palace, first built in the 15th century.

Chatting over cups of tea, Trump showed Xi a video of his granddaughter Arabella Kushner singing in Mandarin and reciting classical Chinese poetry, prompting Xi to compliment her performance as worthy of an "A+", Chinese state media said.

"Addressing the imbalance in China trade has been a central focus of collaborative discussions between President Trump and President Xi".

Trump has made narrowing the multibillion-dollar US trade deficit with China a priority for his administration - and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday the deals were a step in the right direction. And Trump himself has at times also expressed disappointment with China.

As they exited Air Force One, Trump and first lady Melania Trump were met by Chinese and American dignitaries, soldiers standing stiffly at attention, a band playing martial music and smartly attired children waving miniature Chinese and American flags while chanting, "Welcome, welcome".

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"I'm sure we've got the gear aboard this airplane to allow that to happen", a senior administration official said early Wednesday. He seems to have entirely abandoned his plans to label China a currency manipulator.

The president said he was "having a great time" and at one point exclaimed "wow".

While Trump will likely find ways around the firewall, Chinese people face increasingly stringent controls over what they can do, say and see on the internet.

Trump has offered no signs that his stance on China has changed or that he views the Asian powerhouse as less destructive to U.S. manufacturing or threatening to the US' continued economic dominance.

Xi has emerged more powerful after the party's 19th Congress last month, and experts said he will be emboldened to continue his consolidation of power. "We hope all parties do things that are conducive to better relations, trust and mutual understanding".

"The Chinese government know who they're dealing with", said Beijing-based historian Jeremiah Jenne. "It has to come down", Trump said Monday in Japan, before signaling that the U.S. "will take very, very strong action" against countries that he believes have taken advantage of the US.

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While Trump said he sees "certain movement" on the issue, he declined to comment on holding direct talks with North Korea and said the U.S. is ready - "if need be" - to use the full range of its military capabilities. USA exports to China rose 77 per cent from 2007 to 2016 but Washington reported a $347 billion trade deficit with China previous year.

Whether a country registers a trade surplus or deficit is largely decided by its role in the global division of labour and its development stage.

But so far Chinese officials have been wary at the prospect of taking more punitive measures against North Korea.

Two have overflown Japan, and Pyongyang says it can mount a nuclear warhead on a rocket with the United States mainland within range.

In a softening of his earlier harsh rhetoric toward North Korea, Trump said on Tuesday during a visit to South Korea that the regime in Pyongyang should "come to the table" and make a deal on its nuclear programme.

Both issues are prioritized in China as well.

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Trump once trashed China. Now, they're friends