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Trump's Asia visit

Trumps Asia visit
US President Donald Trump is all set to travel to China amidst a bothersome conflict on the Korean peninsula and the general ratcheting of military uncertainty throughout Asia. It would be interesting to witness a success-craving Trump meet a greatly empowered counterpart, Xi Jinping, who has emerged even more strengthened and equipped with a strategic vision, from the recently-concluded 19th party congress. A politically needy US President, with little knowledge of China or even of his foreign policy, with his bureaucracy still not in place and 10 months into his Presidency, is heading to Beijing to deal with an interlocutor who is astutely aware of what he is doing, even more so as he is emerging from his coronation as China's supreme leader. Interestingly, Trump is a President who loves to be flattered – and the Chinese have won accolades for their acumen in ingratiating when needed. Notably, it is the right time for an American President to visit China, but perhaps not the right President to visit, as Trump lacks a disciplined Presidential behaviour. It is certainly an important time to discuss domestic politics in both countries and their respective foreign policies. Domestically, with his latest agenda of 'Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era', Xi has cleared that it means Beijing has already started shifting from a preoccupation with raw gross domestic product growth to a more balanced development for a higher quality of life. It is the timing of Trump's visit that makes it more important. Beijing is heading in new and profoundly important directions, both internally and externally. Washington and Beijing need a focused and strategic approach to cement their areas of convergence, ensuring maximum cooperation and minimum contention. Both Trump and Xi would also have to identify their points of difference and mitigate a solution. On the other hand, to make his visit fruitful, Trump needs to surrender his 'diplomatic cup of tea' attitude. Though Trump claimed they 'have great chemistry together', the rabble-rousing possibilities between two fragile egos, especially in the present Asian diplomatic scenario, cannot be excluded. At the same time, one should not forget that China is neither America's enemy nor competitor and nor is it any of the names that the US anti-China crowd labels it with. The Chinese and the US economies are increasingly intertwined, becoming each other's largest trade partners and major investors. Even a significant number of US states and cities are dependent on the Chinese market and Chinese investment to sustain their economic growth. The two global super-powers are also cooperative in geopolitics. They have worked together to defuse the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, held frequent high-level dialogues to pre-empt potential conflicts and reached an agreement on climate change. To check future conflicts in areas where their national interests collide, the two countries have since long set up an established mechanism. And, Trump went further, raising the S&ED to four high-level talks – comprehensive economics, diplomatic and security, law enforcement and cybersecurity, and social and culture – at a summit with Xi at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, in April this year. It is clear now that the US President has understood that China may be the key to fulfilling his campaign slogan, 'Make America Great Again' and realise his 'America First' policy. While the two countries have established a mechanism to address the chronic trade-deficit issue and have reached agreements on security and cyber-hacking, they have also agreed to increase their people-to-people exchanges, as a way to improve mutual understanding. China's effective economic management over the past four decades has created an increasingly affluent domestic market that in turn should sustain its long-term growth. China's humongous consumption and investment spending power could spur US economic growth, buying more American products and increasing the health of its industries. But, the story of the Trump-Xi relationship has many twists, too. Xi has seen the inconsistency of the US administration on many occasions. But, there are a few clear and consistent messages also from the Trump administration; on trade and economic issues, the balance between threat and negotiation on the Korean peninsula, the one-China policy, and even the degree to which America supports its own allies. Xi is expecting that the US President needs a 'success' more than he does. Indeed, resisting Trump's demands may be a success for Xi. Trump ballyhoos his negotiating abilities but he has little to show for his efforts to date. These contradictory incentives could lead to one of the two outcomes: Trump could simply reach the end of his patience, or a more likely alternative – the US President might have to swallow hard and accept minor gains and promote them as innovative developments. So, further tightening the screws on Pyongyang is surely expected to hog the headlines of the Xi-Trump talks. One can hope their dialogue, despite not yielding the best, but would certainly avoid the worst.

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