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China rolls out the red carpet to Trumps

Talking business: U.S. President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, China’s President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Forbidden City in Beijing on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: JIM WATSON
President Xi escorts visiting American leader to the Forbidden City, business deals worth $9 bn signed

China on Wednesday rolled out the red carpet for U.S. President Donald Trump, capped by a visit to the famous Forbidden City and the signing of a slew of deals in the evening in the Great Hall of the People.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan personally escorted Mr. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump during the visit to the Forbidden City — a world heritage site with a pristine halo of imperial China. An afternoon tea inside the City’s precincts for the foursome was followed by a string of grand opera performances.

High on optics, the first leg of the visit of the presidential couple in China offered a glimpse of the “state visit-plus” welcome, which the Chinese officialdom had promised. Mr. Xi said Mr. Trump’s visit would yield “positive and important” results, Xinhua reported. The state news agency also noted that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s “ice-breaking” 1972 visit that turned the tide of Sino-U.S. ties.

Immediate focus

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Mr. Trump’s visit has a prominent business dimension, though striking deals rather than addressing structural impediments to a balanced economic relationship appears to be his immediate focus.

The CEOs of Boeing, Westinghouse Electric, Goldman Sachs and Qualcomm, among others, are accompanying the President.

By the evening, deals worth $9 billion had been signed. Chinese state-media reported that 19 agreements were signed covering bioscience, aviation and smart manufacturing, in tune with concerns about reducing the massive U.S. trade deficit with China.

China’s e-commerce giant also announced that it would purchase $2 billion worth of American goods. According to U.S. media reports, a Chinese company has contracted purchase of the 50 U.S. Bell helicopters.

China’s Vice-Premier Wang Yang, in charge of economic affairs, and Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Commerce Secretary, oversaw the ceremony. Mr. Wang described the event as a “warm-up” exercise, promising more “good things” for Thursday.

Focused on developing “personal chemistry” between the two leaders, Chinese officials say the programme for Mr. Trump has been carefully structured so that he can spend maximum time together with his Chinese counterpart.

Analysts say there is a perception in China that ensuring a good personal rapport between the two leaders would be key to resolving structural impediments. “China is launching a charm offensive for sure but substantive issues such as trade and North Korea can come up later,” says Beijing-based commentator Einar Tangen, in a conversation with The Hindu.

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