American President-elect Donald Trump spoke to his soon-to-be Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, on Monday, with both promising to meet in person soon and establishing a “clear sense of mutual respect.”
As a Republican presidential candidate, Trump openly condemned China for manipulating its currency and stealing American intellectual property, while also promising to level the economic playing field between both countries.
According to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua, the call between Xi and Trump was a cordial once in which Xi “expressed his willingness to work with him.”
“[T]he two countries need to strengthen coordination, advance their respective economic development and global economic growth and expand exchanges and cooperation in various fields so as to bring more benefits to the two peoples and promote the smooth development of China-U.S. relations,” Xinhua quotes Xi as stating. “I attach great importance to China-U.S. relations and am ready to work with the U.S. side to carry forward bilateral ties and to better benefit the two peoples and the rest of the world.”
Xinhua reports that Trump “voiced his readiness to work with Xi to strengthen U.S.-China cooperation and expressed his belief that U.S.-China relations will witness even greater development.”
The statement from Trump’s White House transition team reflected the same tone as the remarks in Xinhua. “During the call, the leaders established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another, and President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward,” the transition office said.
Chinese state television reported that the two leaders agreed to meet “at an early date” in person. Trump has scheduled one meeting with a world leader – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday – so far, but has said he intends to establish personal relations with as many U.S. allies and world leaders as he can. Abe and Xi have not maintained warm relations, as Japan under Abe has increased its international military profile, alarming China, while China has courted resistance from its neighbor through repeated incursions into disputed territory and establishing an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over Japanese islands.
Trump won the presidency largely on a call for Washington to place the economic interests of the United States first. In his speech accepting the Republican Party nomination, Trump accused China of “outrageous theft of intellectual property,” “illegal dumping” and “devastating currency manipulation” and vowed to stop it.
Trump also commended Chinese leaders for effectively defending their own interests. As a primary candidate, Trump noted that he personally had “a great relationship with China,” but “I don’t want to sit back and watch our country get taken to the cleaners every single year by China.”
Despite the tough talk on their ethnic homeland, Chinese Americans largely supported Trump. Chinese Americans rallied in front of Trump Tower in New York earlier this month, wearing shirts reading “Chinese Americans love Trump” and telling reporters they admired the businessman for representing “the Asian value of pragmatism, hard work and honesty.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry appeared pleased with Xi and Trump’s communication this morning. Xinhua cites spokesperson Geng Shuang as stating that Beijing “takes a positive attitude to all areas that will benefit the two countries and peoples, including infrastructure.”