A False Start for Trump and Xi

The Meaning of the Mar-a-Lago Meeting

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida, April 2017. Carlos Barria / Reuters

When Chinese President Xi Jinping set out to visit U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida last week, the meeting’s potential for drama was clear. During Trump’s campaign for the presidency, he accused China of economically exploiting the United States. As president-elect, he suggested that his administration would call into question the United States’ “one China” policy toward Taiwan—a long-standing pillar of the relationship between Beijing and Washington. (Trump later reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the policy at Xi’s request.) And just before the summit, Trump remained critical of Beijing, writing on Twitter that he expected a “very difficult” meeting and telling reporters en route to Florida that China had treated the United States “unfairly.”

Considering this backdrop, the first U.S.–Chinese presidential meeting of the Trump administration went remarkably smoothly. There were no major blunders in protocol, and Trump even mustered some self-effacing

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