The summit meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping highlights China’s advancement and the U.S.’s retreat

The choice of meeting place certainly benefits the American side, which, due to its status as the greatest world power, continues to take the initiative in arranging initial meetings. On that matter, the choice of Mar-a-Lago is judicious: Xi Jinping and Donald Trump share a taste for kitsch. China has dozens of Mar-a-Lago members; its communist leaders cultivate the same sense of excess as U.S. tycoons. There is no doubt that this is common ground.

As for the choice of weapons, on the other hand, things are different. The duel that the two most powerful men on the planet will fight in Florida appears, in fact, singularly unequal. The elder, Donald Trump, has fired off threatening tweets to announce “difficult discussions,” but he seems like an absolute neophyte in comparison to one of the most experienced politicians, who has, wisely, taken a back seat.

Amateurism and Retreat

While the American leader discovers the mysteries of grasping at democratic power, the Chinese leader, after 40 years of sweat and intrigue, will impose his will by reference to party and country, just like Mao Tse-tung. And in comparison with the army of Chinese diplomats who have been preparing for this meeting for months, the U.S. State Department is decapitated, and its troops, in tatters, are demoralized. Who cares about China in Washington? Is it impossible to know? The president’s son-in-law? An economist with simple theories about protectionism?

To negotiate, Trump could have the strategic advantage of surprise, a possibility that Chinese leaders used to fear. But this advantage has become obsolete after his retreat on the “One China” policy. After having threatened to upend this fundamental principle of bilateral relations, the new president retreated, offering an easy victory to Beijing. His threats to solve the North Korea issue alone? To do what and with whom? They are ridiculous.

Beijing Did Not Ask for So Much

Not only will Trump offer little resistance to Xi Jinping, but he opens a new path for him by denouncing the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty intensely negotiated by his predecessor, and by promising to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty. Human rights? There will be no question.

Xi Jinping will allow his host to save face by giving him money on a silver platter in the form of billions of dollars of investment pledges. The reality is that China, which is not asking for so much, could well marginalize the United States if Donald Trump doesn’t recover quickly.

The lack of a counterweight to Beijing’s power is very bad news, not only for countries neighboring China but for its own population, too. The Chinese dictatorship can only be strengthened by this American retreat.