The US president has been gushing about the Beijing stretch of his Asian tour. But strains in the bilateral relationship are growing with China’s ambitions
Mao once observed that a revolution is not a dinner party. Neither are great power relations – even if they manifest temporarily as a lavish meal in the Forbidden City. Wednesday’s feast for Donald Trump was the first time the palace in central Beijing had hosted a banquet for a foreign leader since the Communist party took power in 1949. Beijing, adept at ladling on such flattery, pitched this leg of the US president’s Asia tour as a “state visit-plus” and arranged a greeting party of children to cry: “Welcome to China! I love you!”
It seems to have worked – for now. The visit’s arrangements were magnificent, incredible, beautiful, impressive, terrific and unforgettable, Mr Trump enthused. His description of his “great chemistry” with Xi Jinping – a “very special man” to whom he has “an incredibly warm” feeling – made it sound like a fully fledged bromance. (He too was presumably soft-soaping – but which leader seems more easily swayed?) The man who accused China of raping the US economy and promised to label it a currency manipulator on his first day in office (he still hasn’t) said the trade relationship was unfair: but he blamed his predecessors, not Beijing. He tweeted that he is looking forward to building “an even STRONGER relationship”.