U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in China Wednesday to start a three-day visit to the country — the first of his presidency.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife welcomed the president and first lady Melania Trump for tea at the Palace Museum, or the Forbidden City. The two leaders viewed a Chinese opera after Trump’s arrival on Air Force One.
The leaders are set for serious discussions Thursday in a series of closed-door meetings. Trump’s agenda in China is expected to revolve around North Korea’s nuclear program and bilateral trade.
As a presidential candidate, Trump expressed a mixed view on China — repeatedly criticizing Beijing for trade policies and currency practices. In the White House, Trump has largely changed his tone and expressed admiration for Xi.
“He’s a powerful man. I happen to think he’s a very good person,” Trump said of Xi last month. He’s aso said “people say” they have “the best relationship” of any two presidents.
Trump’s policy on China may be similar, observers note, to that of former President Barack Obama’s — which balanced cooperation with Beijing with checks on regional aggression.
“Similar to the ‘many cooks in the kitchen’ under the Obama administration,” Ian Bremer, president of the Eurasia group, said. “With defense doing one piece, commerce and trade folks doing another.”
“I think the chemistry between the two leaders is good and that bodes well,” U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said. “If the two leaders can get along well and work out some of the differences, hopefully that can help the rest of us to work things out well.”
In a speech in South Korea Tuesday, Trump called on “every responsible nation, including China and Russia” to help demand the end of the state’s military program.
“North Korea is a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action,” he said.
Trump’s visit to China comes after the country’s 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, during which Xi was re-elected as general secretary and further solidified his power and ensured more years of interacting with the United States.
Trump will continue his Asia trip to Vietnam and the Phillipines last this week.
By Sara Shayanian