Opinion / Chen Weihua

Top-level meeting can forge good personal rapport

By Chen Weihua (China Daily) Updated: 2017-04-07 07:09

Top-level meeting can forge good personal rapport

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in the southeastern US coastal town Palm Beach on April 6, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

There has been much speculation about what issues should be resolved, or even talked about, when President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump meet at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. However, the goal of their first meeting should be to build a good personal relationship that facilitates a constructive and productive relationship between the two countries.

This is especially true given that the Trump administration is less than 80 days in office, with many official positions yet to be filled and several cabinet nominees still to be confirmed.

The new US administration has not rolled out a comprehensive foreign policy and trade policy, except what Trump had said on the campaign trail, or tweeted or mentioned in casual conversations since his inauguration.

The China-US relationship is immense and consequential. A good personal relationship between the top leaders would enable their countries to greatly expand the areas of cooperation in the years ahead while effectively addressing differences. It would help prevent the two nations from drifting into a strategic rivalry or triggering the so-called Thucydides trap between a rising power and the existing power, as many worried might happen during Barack Obama's eight years in office.

Despite their growing economic interdependence, China and the United States still have vast potential for win-win cooperation that is untapped. Concluding a Bilateral Investment Treaty will be one way for them to inject new momentum into both economies.

With its impressive record in infrastructure construction in the past decades, China can play a positive role in helping accomplish Trump's ambitious plan to fix the crumbling infrastructure in the US.

The US could also adopt a more positive attitude toward the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative (the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road), which aim to facilitate regional connectivity and economic development. The thinking that the US should not endorse any China-led initiatives reflected the zero-sum mentality of the previous administration, and is an attitude Trump needs not inherit.

There is a host of regional and global challenges that require China and the US to work together, from counter-terrorism and fighting epidemics to improving global governance and reviving the world economy. White House officials and many US pundits have put the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and some trade and investment issues between China and the US on top of the agenda for meeting.

Such issues call for China, the US, and other parties involved, to conduct more consultations, rather than taking unilateral actions, to resolve them.

The same is true for bilateral economic and trade issues. Many US economists, for example, believe that blaming US trade deficits and job losses on China or Mexico is missing the big picture, and such misguided analysis will only lead to wrong policies.

For all these reasons, it is unrealistic to expect quick results from the first informal summit between the two leaders. But if they can build a good personal rapport, it would be easier for the two countries to sort these things out in the days and years ahead.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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