Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi will arrive in the United States Monday for a two-day visit at the behest of the Trump administration. Yang will be the highest-ranking official from Beijing to visit the White House since Trump assumed the presidency.
Yang’s visit coincides with the 45th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking trip to China between February 21-28, 1972.
The Chinese communist government confirmed in announcing the visit that Yang will be “the first senior Chinese official to visit the US since President Donald Trump took office on Jan 20.”
The Chinese state outlet Xinhua quotes expert Jia Xiudong as saying that observers should expect Yang to “reaffirm the tone of bilateral relations set by the two heads of state in their phone conversation” and discuss a wide range of issues, including “trade, security, and international issues.” President Trump held a phone call earlier this month with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, one in which he affirmed that the United States supports the “One China” policy, which does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty.
That call, which the White House described as “extremely cordial” and ended with a promise to continue to “engage in discussions and negotiations on various issues of mutual interest,” was pivotal in scheduling high-level bilateral talks, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
“Recently President Xi Jinping and President Trump had a phone call during which both presidents agreed to remain in close contact and said they look forward to meeting each other at an early date,” Kang told reporters on Monday. “The two sides will stay in communication on the high-level exchanges at the working level.”
Yang’s visit will likely function as a first step towards laying the groundwork for an in-person meeting between Trump and Xi. The Chinese government appeared open to such a talk shortly before the two leaders spoke on the phone, with spokesman Lu telling reporters that Beijing “highly commended” Trump on sending a holiday greeting message to the Chinese people on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. “China will work with the US, in the principle of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation, to expand cooperation, manage differences, and strive for greater achievements in our bilateral relationship by ensuring its healthy and sound growth,” he said at the time.
The South China Morning Post suggests that an in-person meeting is possible later this year – at the G20 summit in Germany, scheduled for July. That event is months away, however, and Chinese state-run propaganda outlets have not yet taken the tone of the official government agencies, instead condemning President Trump for a variety of issues, from his relationship with adversarial media (which do not exist in China) to his skepticism on the Chinese economy.
In an interview with Reuters last week, Trump made clear his belief that the Chinese government had a role to play in curbing the behavior of an increasingly erratic North Korea. The state-run People’s Daily excoriated Trump for this claim, as well as his accusation of “currency manipulation” on behalf of the Communist Party. “The impression Trump left was that he has been talking about China based on his own imagination,” the newspaper claimed. “He knows nothing about China’s currency policies and had no idea about the nature of Sino-North Korean relations.” The same column went on to scold, “The White House is not a standup comedy theater.”
The Global Times, meanwhile, typically the most belligerent of China’s government media properties, took to attacking President Trump for his decision not to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “Trump is abusing the power of his office granted by the US Constitution, while the media is launching unruly attacks on Trump,” the Times accused.
The Global Times has previously accused Trump of triggering a state of “total chaos” in the United States and threatened war on numerous occasions.