Xi-Trump call signals truce; growing pressure in US to seek help from China

By Chen Qingqing and Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/27 16:14:48

Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke on the phone with US President Donald Trump at the invitation of the latter on Friday, less than 20 hours after a G20 online summit.

It is the first such interaction between the two leaders since the US provoked clashes between the two countries over the coronavirus.

The shifting attitude of the US reflected that seeking help from Beijing is an urgent task for Washington given the pandemic continued worsening in the US, analysts said. 

Xi told Trump that China has been reporting the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) situation to the international community since the outbreak began with a responsible attitude. Chinese and US health departments and disease prevention and control experts have maintained communication on the international COVID-19 situation, Xi said, noting that China is willing to continue sharing information and experience with the US without reservations. 

Some provinces, cities and enterprises in China are providing medical supplies to the US, and China understands the current difficult situation in the US and is willing to provide support within its capacity, the Chinese president said. 

The shifting attitude of the US showed that seeking help from Beijing is an urgent task for Washington given the pandemic's worsening situation in the US, but this truce amid the US-initiated blame game won’t change the course of the strategic rivalry and complex bilateral ties, and this phone call is delivering a message that cooperation instead of confrontation is the only correct choice between the two countries, according to observers. 

The move reflects China’s responsible attitude in cooperating with the international community, including the US, in global epidemic prevention, Diao Daming, a US studies expert at Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Friday. 

“Responding to the pandemic is a global matter and its success relies on the effort of each country in the world and no country should be absent,” he said. 

The US has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any country in the world as of Friday, with more than 85,000 infection cases, and the death toll in the US surged to 1,300, according to Johns Hopkins University. The Trump administration has been harshly criticized for its delayed response and ineffective handling of the public health crisis considering severe shortages of medical supplies and lack of preparation, which is now weighing on the US’s health system heavily. 

“The gravity of the situation in the country has forced Trump to express  willingness of asking for help from China, not to mention that the US needs to buy a huge amount of medical equipment including personal protective equipment, test kits and equipment like ventilators,” Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times. “This is an objective that Trump needs to achieve [through the phone call].”

By responding to the pandemic in terms of practical cooperation, the Chinese side expects to send out a signal to the US that “cooperation is the only correct choice” and wishes the US would also take action practically, experts say.

However, such a temporary truce amid an ongoing war of words sparked by the White House is unlikely to change the course of China-US ties due to growing confrontations regarding geopolitics and ideology, particularly when Washington has not given up a smear campaign against China and constantly criticized Beijing for “lack of transparency,” which caused a delay in the US’s response to the pandemic. 

Also, Trump signing the "Taipei Act" also reflected its intention of acting to serve its own interests at the expense of damaging China-US ties to provoke instability in the region, analysts warned. 

The Chinese president emphasized that at present, China-US relations are at an important juncture. Cooperation between the two nations is mutually beneficial, while confrontation will only hurt the two sides, he said, noting that cooperation is the only correct choice.

“When the US stigmatizes China and shows frequent non-beneficial actions on some sensitive issues, the head of state can still call to emphasize cooperation, which fully demonstrates the ‘big picture’ that China holds in promoting a joint response among nations of the world to the pandemic,” Diao said. 


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