What China Wants From Trump

Why Beijing Will Avoid Real Compromise on Trade and North Korea

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a dinner at the start of their summit at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 2017. Carlos Barria / REUTERS

When U.S. President Donald Trump lands in Beijing this week, he will find a Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the apex of his own political power and contemplating a status quo in Asia increasingly tilted in China’s favor. In most Asian capitals, as in Washington, Trump’s arrival in the region for an 11-day trip has prompted acute anxiety about what he might say or do. This is especially true regarding trade issues and North Korea, the two focal points of the U.S. administration’s still-nascent Asia policy. But in Beijing, Xi and the rest of the Chinese leadership can be more sanguine: since last November, China has succeeded in appearing to more and more of Asia as the steady, stable great power alongside an unpredictable and undependable United States.

That means that when Trump begins his first state visit to China on Wednesday—arguably the highest-stakes

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