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 Zha Daojiong, a professor in the School of International Studies at Peking University and a former Senior Arthur Ross Fellow at the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, to discuss his reaction to the summit.
Zha says that the summit’s outcomes surpassed his expectations. He argues 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 hopes the newly established U.S.-China Comprehensive Dialogue will 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 views the concurrent missile strike on Syria during the summit as an unplanned coincidence, he emphasizes that many Chinese view the timing as purposeful. Overall, Zha feels 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.