The Chinese government appears to be adopting a two-sided diplomatic approach to incoming U.S. President Donald Trump, with President Xi Jinping and his Foreign Ministry issuing moderated, friendly comments about Trump. China’s propaganda newspapers, however, seethe at the President-elect’s defiant moves against the Asian power.
In a meeting during the weekend, Xi told former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a key player in the restoration of China-U.S. ties, that he was hoping to maintain “sustained, stable and better growth of U.S.-China relations” under Trump, according to Chinese state news service Xinhua.
Kissinger and Xi reportedly met in China’s Great Hall of the People before reporters, with Xinhua revealing the details of the conversation the Chinese communist government wished to see make headlines. As Kissinger had recently met with Trump, the discussion with Xi largely centered around what to expect of the new Trump administration.
“The development history of China-U.S. ties since the forging of diplomatic ties has proven our common interests far outweigh the differences,” Xi is quoted in Xinhua as stating. Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post emphasizes that Xi stressed how interested the Communist Party is in what Trump is doing to build his team in the United States.
“The presidential election has taken place in the United States and we are now in the key moment. We, on the Chinese side, are watching the situation very closely. Now it is in the transition period,” Xi reportedly said. “Overall, we hope to see the China-US relationship moving ahead in a sustained and stable manner.”
Xi’s attitude towards Trump appears unchanged from his initial contact with the President-elect following his election in November. “Xi congratulated Trump on his election as U.S. president and expressed his willingness to work with him,” Xinhua reported at the time. “Facts have shown that cooperation is the only correct choice for the two countries, he said.”
The columnists running China’s propaganda outlets, however, appear significantly more alarmed. The Global Times has already predicted war (again). “No matter what the reasons are behind Trump’s outrageous remarks, it appears inevitable that Sino-US ties will witness more troubles in his early time in the White House than any other predecessor,” a Global Times column predicts. “We must be fully prepared, both mentally and physically, for this scenario.” The column goes on to accuse Trump of seeking to “treat China as a fat lamb and cut a piece of meat off it. … He is trying to pillage other countries for the prosperity of the US.”
Another Global Times column reveals panic regarding China’s ongoing colonization of the South China Sea. While noting that Trump has largely remained silent on the matter, the column notes that Trump responded to criticism of accepting a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen by noting that China was bullying its neighbors out of South China Sea territories.
“His mention of the South China Sea is a shock,” the column laments. “The South China Sea, which is far away from the US, will not affect the security of the US. … But the US national reputation is an important factor for Trump.” The Times suggests that Trump will use Washington’s strength to protect smaller nations in the South China Sea against Beijing’s belligerence, highlighting his positive rapport with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Duterte does not like Obama yet welcomed Trump. The US-Philippine relationship may be improved during the Trump era,” the column warns.
While the Philippines under Duterte predecessor Benigno Aquino won a case in international court against Chinese colonization of its Spratly and Paracel Island territories, China has publicly insisted on ignoring The Hague court’s decision. Duterte has agreed not to discuss the court’s ruling as long as China allows Philippine fishermen to use their own domestic waters without intervention.
Duterte has also referred to Xi Jinping as a “close friend.” Duterte has referred to President Barack Obama as a “son of a whore” twice. Trump appears to have begun whittling away at Duterte’s reticence towards America, however, accepting a phone call from Manila that observers described as positive and “animated.”
Trump has placed China’s enemies at the forefront of his transition process, speaking to Duterte and Tsai as well as welcoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Trump Tower in November, the first foreign leader to meet with the President-elect in person.