In some ways, Donald Trump’s Nov. 5-14 visit to Asia was truly historic. After the U.S. President had consolidated good working relations with Japan’s Shinzo Abe and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in on the first part of his journey, his “state visit plus” to China was a high point, followed by attendance at the APEC, ASEAN and East Asia summits, coupled with state visits to the two host countries, Vietnam and the Philippines.
On all these occasions, Trump stressed the need to develop and maintain constructive relations with all countries. In so doing, he dealt a tremendous, potentially fatal, blow to the geopolitical creed of “divide and conquer” which has dominated western foreign policy for decades.
The lack of a private meeting with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the APEC summit is what attracted the most headlines, but the Russian President said he understood that the problem was due to “internal domestic struggle” in the United States. Indeed, since well before he was elected President, Trump has been under constant fire for his intention to work together with Russia and China from the so-called “establishment”, that is not only the Democrats, but also – and perhaps especially – the neocons in the Republican party, who never accepted his candidacy. Senator Bob Corker has openly declared war on him, as have the notorious war mongers John McCain and Lindsay Graham.
Nonetheless, Trump has stuck to his guns. Speaking to the press on Nov. 12 in Hanoi, he stressed “it’s very, very important that we get along with Russia, with China, with Vietnam, and with lots of other countries” because we have to “solve the problems of North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism….”
The United States and China Open a New Era of Cooperation
During Trump’s visit to China, beyond the progress made on solving the Korea crisis and increasing stability in the South China Sea, and over $250 billion dollars worth of trade deals, the two heads of state were able to come closer on a personal level, which is a crucial aspect of diplomacy.
The Chinese leaders organized an unprecedented welcome, with the Nov. 8 arrival ceremony broadcast live on national television for the first time. On the first day of his visit, the entire Forbidden City was closed down for the first time in history, to allow the U.S. President and his wife to tour the complex to gain a better appreciation of Chinese culture and history, hearing hear selections from the renowned Peking Opera, and sharing many experiences. On a very personal note, Trump showed President Xi and his wife a video of his six year old granddaughter Arabella Kushner, dedicated to “Grandpa Xi” and “Grandma Peng”, singing Chinese folk songs in Mandarin.
Xi said he was optimistic that mutually beneficial relations will develop between the two countries, despite inevitable issues. “With our economic relations expanding rapidly, it is natural that we may have differences, from time to time. The important thing is, we act in the spirit of mutual benefit and mutual understanding, and seek proper settlement through dialogue and consultation.”
Trump, as expected, did decry China’s “unfair” trade surplus with the United States, but added it was due to the mistakes of past U.S. administrations and not to China. “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the sake of its citizens?” In fact, the Chinese have been willing to increase their imports from the U.S., but Washington would refuse to sell many products because of alleged “dual use” technologies.
As on countless previous occasions, Trump stated throughout the ten days that he defended the interests of Americans, just as the other leaders must defend their own national interests.
Directly countering the grotesque image of President Xi presented in many western media, Trump said of him on Nov. 11: “I really believe he’s a good person. He wants to do right, he’s representing his people… He’s very strong… And we get along very well.” That gives the “deep state” one more reason to intensify the mobilization against him.