Mon, Jul 17, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Diplomatic rifts harm China-US ties

AFP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 8 meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Photo: AP

Three months after US President Donald Trump hosted a lavish welcome for Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at his Florida resort, the powers have made headway on an ambitious economic plan even as diplomatic rifts between them have widened.

Speaking in Paris on Thursday, the US president was full of praise for Xi, proclaiming him a “friend” for whom he has “great respect,” a “great leader” and a “very talented man.”

The expressions of admiration have gone both ways — a day earlier Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) had hailed “positive advances” in China-US economic cooperation based on a spirit of “consensus” between the two leaders.

Both sides see moderate progress on a wide-ranging 100-day economic action plan, first unveiled at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in April that covers such areas as financial services, investment, energy and trade — a topic close to the US president’s heart.

“Both sides seem to share the view that the 100-day plan is largely on track,” Brookings Institution analyst Evans Revere said.

Jake Parker, vice president of the US-China Business Council in Beijing, largely agreed.

“Overall, the 100-day outcomes are positive first steps addressing lingering issues in the US-China commercial relationship,” he said, while adding that more needed to be done to address structural issues such as foreign investment restrictions.

However, despite the effusive rhetoric, that progress has not been matched in other areas of the relationship with ever widening rifts on a host of foreign policy issues.

The US appears bitterly disappointed over China’s failure to exert pressure on North Korea in the wake of its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, while Beijing has been left fuming at arms sales to Taiwan, US incursions into disputed territory in the South China Sea — where Taiwan also has claims — and statements on human rights.

Trump made China a central part of his presidential campaign, denouncing the country for unfair trading practices that cost US jobs and accusing it of manipulating its currency.

However, since becoming US president, he has taken an about-turn on the currency issue and in May announced a deal to export US beef and natural gas to China in the hope of reducing a massive trade deficit that totaled US$347 billion last year.

The first results from the 100-day plan will likely be feted at the US-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue that is to be held on Wednesday in Washington, hosted by US treasury and commerce secretaries Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang (汪洋).

However, in other contentious areas of the relationship — tensions in the Korean Peninsula, China’s maritime disputes with its neighbors, Taiwan and human rights — “the two sides are far apart,” Revere said.

The US has scolded Beijing for not putting enough pressure on North Korea, which increased trade with its key diplomatic backer by 10.5 percent in the first half of this year.

The July 4 launch of an ICBM by Pyongyang signaled that Trump’s “naive experiment regarding China and North Korea is now coming to an end,” Revere said, vindicating foreign policy experts’ skepticism towards relying on Beijing to rein in its neighbor.

As evidence of the shift, Revere cited US sanctions on Chinese entities, such as the Bank of Dandong, which is accused of illicit dealings with companies linked to the weapons program, days before the launch.

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