A Chinese worker handles yarn on a machine for weaving scarves to be exported to the US at a textile factory in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, in May 2016. Photo: IC
A planned meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump next month will likely focus on stabilizing bilateral economic and trade relations, as the two leaders try to find ways to manage differences while expanding cooperation in areas of shared interest, experts said on Tuesday.
Trump is reportedly scheduled to receive Xi at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida sometime in early April. The exact meeting date has not been released yet. The first face-to-face meeting between the leaders in charge of the world's two largest economies will come at a critical moment for bilateral economic and trade relations.
Sino-US trade relations have been under a dark cloud since Trump entered the US political arena, challenging China through tough rhetoric and prompting measured, but firm pushback from Chinese officials. Some commentators had even warned of the inevitability of a trade war.
With such high stakes, the first and foremost item on the agenda will be to cool down the rising temperature in the bilateral economic and trade relationship, said He Weiwen, an executive council member of the China Society for WTO Studies.
Constructive talks needed
"The meeting will undoubtedly focus on finding constructive ways to maintain broad stability in Sino-US relations and setting a better foundation for future economic and trade cooperation," He told the Global Times Tuesday.
After months of fiery exchanges, it is necessary for the two countries to pursue constructive dialogue, said Jiang Yong, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
"I think the time for testing and gauging each other is over," Jiang told the Global Times. "Now they really need to cool down and to talk about how to move forward."
He pointed out that the fiery exchanges were initiated by Trump first to win votes and later to test China's will and resolve, "but Trump has probably learned now that it's time to earn money, not votes… and that there is just too much at stake to further risk the bilateral relations."
Trump has repeatedly accused China of not playing by fair trade rules and hurting the US economy and jobs. He even threatened to impose tariffs as high as 45 percent on imports from China and to take other punitive measures against Chinese industries and companies.
Trump made an unprecedented move in November by taking a phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen and later suggested that the one-China policy could be used in negotiations with the Chinese mainland.
Chinese officials have pointed out the interdependence of the two economies and the dire consequences of a potential trade war. Some experts suggested that China's references are an implicit warning for US officials that China would respond to any potential action against its interests and that the US would be hurt as well.
But recent signs suggest things might be cooling off, experts noted, pointing to positive interactions between officials from the two countries.
Xi and Trump held a phone call on February 9, in which the two had a "lengthy" conversation on "numerous topics," the White House said in a statement following the call. In the talk, Trump agreed to honor the one-China policy, which has been the bedrock of Sino-US relations for decades.
During a visit to China this month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated Trump's pledge to honor the one-China policy and expressed US' willingness to work with China on various areas.
However, differences between the two countries on trade and various other areas still exist, and a single meeting will not be sufficient to change that, experts noted.
"Issues such as trade imbalances between the two countries, market openness and monetary policies would continue to affect bilateral ties," He said. That difference might even be on display at the meeting with Xi likely to stress free trade, while Trump likely to stress fair trade.
"Basically, there will be rainy days and there will be sunny days," Jiang, said of the future of China-US trade relations. "There have been and will be a lot of differences, but with such a broad relationship, we can always find areas of shared interest to cooperate and try to manage differences through constructive dialogue."