Beijing: Trump to Visit China’s ‘Forbidden City’ on Wednesday

The northwest corner of the Forbidden City, Beijing, China

China announced on Tuesday that it would grant U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump a tour of Beijing’s Forbidden City on Wednesday, the residence of the Chinese emperor for almost 500 years.

The tour appears to be part of what Chinese state media are referring to as the “state visit-plus” treatment expected for the president, which will include unspecified opportunities for Trump to be taught Chinese history from the perspective of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC).

The Chinese state outlet Global Times announced that Chinese President Xi Jinping and his family would accompany Trump and the First Lady during their tour of the Forbidden City.

“The Forbidden City in the first night will include the first families of China and the U.S., and I believe that will be very personal and special occasion,” U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad explained, according to the Times. The location—the largest palace in the world, according to the Smithsonian—will be closed to other tourists while Trump and Xi are there.

The Times added some quotes from alleged tourists at the landmark on Monday. “China is a country of rites and courtesy and the people understand [the closure],” an individual identified only as “Wang” reportedly said.

Chinese academic Ni Feng told the outlet that “Trump’s visit to the Forbidden City will be different from normal visits, with special arrangements to be made to help Trump understand more about China.”

Chinese state media reports on Monday emphasized that the communist government felt it was of great importance to persuade Trump to see the history of China from their eyes during the visit. Chinese ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai explained to Xinhua, another state outlet, that Xi’s officials had made “special arrangements” for events designed to teach Trump “more about Chinese history, culture and people.”

Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang added that Xi and Trump would also engage in “some informal get-togethers.”

The formal tenor of Trump’s visit to China differs somewhat from the more familial engagement that Trump opted for when Xi visited the United States in April. For that visit, which White House officials stated would last for little more than a day, Trump hosted Xi at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and focused on forging a personal bond with the Chinese leader to further the bilateral relationship. Trump did not engage Xi in any educational programming on the history of the United States from an American perspective.

Chinese state outlet China Daily notes that much is riding on Trump’s visit to China, not just because of the importance of bilateral ties, but because Trump will be the first head of state to visit China since Xi Jinping became only the third leader in the nation’s history to have his name enshrined in the Communist Party constitution, an honor previously reserved only for Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Trump congratulated Xi on this consolidation of power, joking that “some might call him king of China.”

During his three-hour speech to the Communist Party congress in October, Xi emphasized the need for China to take “center stage” in the world through an ideology he branded “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which de-emphasizes the role Western thinkers like Karl Marx had in shaping Chinese communism and instead invokes more strongly the history of ancient and medieval China.

Among the key policies Xi is promoting to spearhead this initiative is reviving China’s ancient Silk Road through the One Belt One Road initiative, giving China nearly full control of Asian land trade; and the conquest of the entire South China Sea through illegal militarization, which would cement China’s stronghold over Asian sea trade. Xi has referred to the entire South China Sea as a territory “left to us by our ancestors,” a claim the international legal system has rejected.

President Trump will visit China from November 8-10, then continue his extended Asia tour with stops in Vietnam and the Philippines.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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