Trump says that no matter what happens on trade, he and Xi ‘will always be friends’
True friendships last a lifetime
Donald Trump has said that even a nasty trade war will do nothing to damage the ties of personal friendship that have been forged between himself and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that he and Xi “will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade,” before telling his purported “pal” what he needs to be done.
In a string of tit-for-tat threats last week, Trump made the biggest one on Friday, announcing that he had asked the US Trade Representative to consider slapping an additional $100 billion in tariffs on China after Beijing said that it would hit the US with $50 billion in import levies if Washington went ahead with its plan to do the same.
Unsurprisingly, this whopper of an escalation came from Trump with no study and almost no debate in the White House, according to Axios:
There wasn’t one single deliberative meeting in which senior officials sat down to debate the pros and cons of this historic threat. Trump didn’t even ask for advice from his new top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, instead presenting the tariffs as a fait accompli. Chief of Staff John Kelly knew Trump wanted more tariffs but was blindsided by the speed of the announcement. And Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short — the White House’s liaison to Capitol Hill — was totally in the dark.
To be sure, the president wasn’t completely freelancing. The topic came up at the senior staff meeting the morning of the announcement. And he personally ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to put together the threat and to get it done by Thursday. Trump said he had to protect American farmers, whom the Chinese were threatening with billions in tariffs.
Experts have said that while the $50 billion in tariffs proposed by the US on China are a bit of hodgepodge of different goods, the 25% import duties that have been proposed by China on the US are much more high-stakes, targeting critical imports like airplanes, automobiles, and, perhaps most importantly, soybeans. If instituted they would be a major blow to American farmers.
Trump has called China’s proposal an “unfair retaliation,” though even the US president must have known that Beijing would not take kindly to tariff threats from Washington.
Just prior to China proposing its own tariffs last Wednesday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington issued an unusually shade-filled statement, “strongly condemning” US measures, but warning that China would respond in kind.
“As the Chinese saying goes, it is only polite to reciprocate,” the embassy said.
At the start of last week, China also slapped import taxes on some 128 different US products, including wine, pork, fruits, and nuts, worth about $3 billion a year in total. That move came in response to the Trump administration decision last month to imposes taxes of 10% on aluminium and 25% on steel coming in from overseas.
Since Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago last April, Trump has bragged again and again about his purported “bromance” with the Chinese president, claiming that people say he and Xi have “the best relationship of any president-president” — a relationship that was apparently forged over “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” and listening together to Trump’s granddaughter singing “Mo Li Hua.”
At every opportunity, Trump has taken the time to effusively praise the Chinese leader. After the 19th Party Congress, Trump tweeted that he had congratulated Xi on his “extraordinary elevation.” The following day, in an interview with Fox News, he claimed that some might call Xi the “king of China.”
When it was reported that China would scrap its limits on presidential terms, Trump told a private luncheon of Republican party donors at Mar-a-Lago that he thought it was “great” that Xi would be “president for life.”
“Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day,” he added.
Meanwhile, Xi hasn’t publicly said much nice about Trump, choosing to instead restrict his compliments to “US-China relations.” Last November, Beijing rolled out the red carpet for Trump treating him to a “state visit-plus” experience which was likely designed to flatter his ego — certainly not a difficult thing to do.
Afterward, Jorge Guajardo, Mexico’s ambassador to China from 2007 to 2013, said that the Chinese government was “playing Trump like a fiddle.”
“You don’t have good chemistry with a Chinese leader who doesn’t speak your language and is geared to not develop chemistry,” Guajardo said.