Those concerned about increasingly tense US-China relations can now breathe a sigh of relief because Donald Trump has written Xi Jinping a letter.
In the letter, Trump says that he is looking forward to working with the Chinese President “to develop a constructive relationship” that benefits both countries, the White House said in a statement.
Trump also thanked Xi for his congratulatory note following his inauguration and even wished the Chinese people “a happy Lantern Festival and a prosperous Year of the Rooster.”
One world leader not getting a presidential phone call from Trump is Xi Jinping. He gets a letter instead. pic.twitter.com/FNFfHQoQae
— Philip Crowther (@PhilipinDC) February 9, 2017
Presumably, Chinese netizens will at least be glad to hear that the US president has finally wished them a happy new year. So far, Trump has broken with tradition and failed to issue the customary Lunar New year greeting, leaving the holiday pageantry and diplomacy to his daughter and granddaughter.
But, while Trump says he’s looking forward to working with Xi, it’s curious that he still hasn’t given his Chinese counterpart a call, and decided to keep in touch via snail mail instead. Already in office for more than two weeks, he has spoken with the leaders of 18 different countries in person or by phone, but he has kept Xi hanging.
Meanwhile, Trump’s China policy remains mostly a mystery, though members of his administration have made some troubling comments in the recent past.
In his first press conference, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the US would defend international territories from being taken over by China in the South China Sea. Spicer’s comments followed those made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his confirmation hearing last month.
“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,” the 64-year-old former Exxon CEO said when asked if he supported a more aggressive posture toward China, adding that China’s island-building was “akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea.”
That kind of rhetoric would seem to confirm the thinking of Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon who said in a recently-uncovered radio interview from last March that he had “no doubt” war would break out between the US and China.
We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years, aren’t we? There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face—and you understand how important face is—and say it’s an ancient territorial sea
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi tried to cool tensions by stating that there would no winner in a war between China and the United States, something that any “sober-minded politician” would understand.
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