Trump-Xi Meeting: Why Did the United States and China Report It Differently?

The Group of 20 Summit of leading rich and developing nations that had been in the world spotlight had wrapped up. Donald Trump and Xi Jinping had shaken hands. The whole world was relieved, as there was finally no need to worry that the sudden changes in U.S. tariffs on Jan. 1 of next year would trigger a global storm.

There was continuous news about the meeting between Trump and Xi. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi released statements respectively, and both said the meeting was highly successful but the two statements were hardly the same. So, sharp-eyed Bloomberg News was suspicious, and asked, why did the U.S. and China have different versions of the meeting?

Let us first look at how the U.S. and Chinese statements differed. The United States indicated that if no agreement were reached within the next 90 days, the tariff would rise to 25 percent, while Beijing did not mention the 90-day deadline. The United States said China would e immediately purchase agricultural products from the United States, and Xi Jinping would reconsider the approval of the Qualcomm-NXP merger. the Chinese side did not mention it. The Chinese statement did not mention these conditions. The Chinese talked about the One China policy, market access and Chinese international students, none of which the U.S. mentioned.

Some people say there is no need to make a fuss the statements issued separately are inconsistent. I do not agree with this point, as there are reasons that the statements do not match.

First, from the Chinese perspective, U.S.-China trade issues in mainland China are a politically sensitive topic. . The Communist Party of China does not allow people to discuss trade issues publicly, something I learned from some friends in mainland China. Several influential experts and scholars within and outside the system have been banned from talking. The CPC is trying to control how news about the Trump-Xi meeting is disclosed and interpreted.

Second, China was not willing to have Chinese people know that it was forced to make big concession. China did not want its people to know they were only able to get a 90-day delay by promising to buy $1.2 trillion worth of American products. The CPC hopes that in the eyes of its people, China is still a rising power and a strong country, and that Xi is still a powerful leader.

Third, with respect to the specific agreements reached at the meeting, by talking about it in general terms, avoiding the main points and just mentioning unimportant issues, the CPC highlighted the areas that were beneficial to China and understated the areas which were not.

Based on the parts of the meeting disclosed by the United States and China, the issue which China played down the most was the fact that the United States pushed China to begin immediate negotiations regarding forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft. China mentioned that the United States and China will work together to reach consensus on trade issues. China also downplayed the fact that when the U.S. claimed China would purchase substantial amounts of agricultural products energy, industrial goods and other materials from the United States, China stated that it would be willing to expand imports according to the needs of the domestic market and the Chinese people, including the purchase of marketable goods from the United States.

Despite this, the China still believes that it has won. Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal reported that Xi was most concerned about whether the U.S. would l adjust the tariff from the current rate of 10 percent to 25 percent on Jan. 1 of next year. Now he can feel relieved. China has 90 additional days to decide how far it will go to make concessions to the United States. Therefore, it does make some sense that Xi believes he has won.

From the United States’ perspective, the 90-day delay was good news for all parties. The big rise in the American and global stock markets on Monday was evidence of this.

Interestingly, Trump had been unsure about postponing the 25 percent tariff before the G-20 summit. Why, then, did he do so?

He did so because Trump himself really needed good news. The Financial Times said that Trump has had nothing but bad new back in the United States, so he would be looking for a victory. This is especially so in light of the Russia investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose work has already led many of Trump’s close confidents to plead guilty and cooperate with the Mueller team.

Trump also believes he won. He described the trade war truce as “the largest deal ever, “on his way back from the G-20 summit. It’s an incredible deal. It goes down, certainly — if it happens, it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro added, “The U.S didn’t make any concession in the Trump – Xi meeting, it just gave China 90 days, to do what they should have done during past 20 years.”*

This is interesting. Both Xi and Trump think they have won!

In my opinion, the U.S giving in to a 90-day delay is just an intermission. If the deep problems with China’s economic structure are not resolved, the conflict between the United States and China will continue to grown, . But the serious problems with China’s economic structure will be very difficult to resolve as long as the Communist Party is in power.

*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, the quoted remarks could not be independently verified.

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