China rolls out red carpet for Trump on second day of state visit; tough talks ahead for both sides

BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday (Nov 9) morning held what state media described as “a very special” grand ceremony to welcome US President Donald Trump at the Great Hall of the People.

North Korea and trade will likely top the agenda as Mr Trump and Mr Xi Jinping sat down on Thursday morning for formal talks, a day after the US leader warned in Seoul Pyongyang of the grave danger of developing nuclear weapons.

Mr Trump arrived in Beijing on Wednesday afternoon for a three-day state visit. China is the third stop of Mr Trump’s 12-day, five-nation tour of Asia.

China has been keen to show the importance it puts on Mr Trump’s visit, the first by a foreign leader since the end of a key Communist Party Congress last month where Mr Xi cemented his power.

On Wednesday, Mr Xi gave Mr Trump the rare honour of a personal tour of the Forbidden City. The UNESCO World Heritage site was closed for one day on Wednesday.

“Looking forward to a full day of meetings with President Xi and our delegations tomorrow. THANK YOU for the beautiful welcome China! @FLOTUS Melania and I will never forget it!” Trump said on Twitter after the visit and dinner on Wednesday.

According to the official news agency Xinhua, China is pulling out all the stops to make the US president feel welcomed and honoured.

Mr Trump has ratcheted up his criticism of China’s massive trade surplus with the United States – calling it “embarrassing”and “horrible” last week – and has accused Beijing of unfair trade practices, fuelling worries of increased tension between the world’s two largest trading countries.

For its part, China says US restrictions on Chinese investments in the United States and on high-tech exports need to be addressed.

Roughly US$250 billion in deals with US companies are expected to be announced during the visit, people familiar with the matter said, with several corporate CEOs in Beijing as part of a delegation led by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Mr Trump railed against China’s trade practices during the 2016 US presidential campaign and threatened to take action once in office.

But he has since held back on any major trade penalties, making clear he was doing so to give Beijing time to make progress reining in North Korea.

China has repeatedly pushed back at suggestions it should be doing more to rein in North Korea, which does about 90 per cent of its trade with China, saying it is fully enforcing UN sanctions and that everyone has a responsibility to lower tensions and get talks back on track.

Trump used some of his toughest language yet against North Korea in a wide-ranging address in Seoul on Wednesday that lodged specific accusations of chilling human rights abuses, although he offered no evidence to support the accusations.

He also called on countries around the world to isolate Pyongyang by denying it “any form of support, supply or acceptance”.

Chinese state media on Thursday praised the tone of the initial get-together on the first day, part of what China has promised will be a “state visit plus” for Trump.

“Trump seems to be pragmatic on his Beijing policy, and has no interest in ideological diplomacy. He hasn’t used the issue of human rights to make trouble for China so far, and this means the Sino-US relationship can focus on substantive matters,”influential tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial.