Presidents Donald J. Trump and Xi Jinping met April 6-7, 2017 at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. As the two men met for the first time, much hinged on their discussions. Despite President Trump’s tough-on-China campaign rhetoric and provocative tweets since the election, he and his advisors have adopted a more conciliatory line since assuming office. China regarded the new administration warily after President Trump broke diplomatic protocol and accepted a call from Taiwan’s president in December, but China too had moved to a more accommodating stance in the run-up to the meeting.
To better understand each country’s takeaways from the summit and what it suggests for the future of U.S.-China relations, National Committee President Steve Orlins convened a teleconference with Evan Medeiros and Michael Green, both of whom served as special assistant to the president and senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council. North Korea and trade issues topped the agenda, while the issues of Taiwan and the South China Sea remained largely quiet. Rather than focusing on policy, the summit focused on developing a personal relationship between the two leaders early on and diminishing any notions of an emerging zero-sum relationship. To continue the dialogue, President Xi invited Trump to a state visit in China later this year. Xi also proposed four new dialogue mechanisms to replace the Obama Administration’s framework, which Trump agreed to. The new framework, the U.S.-China Comprehensive Dialogue, will feature four tracks: a diplomatic and security dialogue; a comprehensive economic dialogue; a law enforcement and cybersecurity dialogue; and a social and cultures issues dialogue. The Trump Administration, for its part, put forward a 100-day plan to address differences on economic issues between the two countries.
Evan Medeiros and Michael Green addressed questions related to issues surrounding the summit, including: Syria, PACOM’s deployment of the Carl Vinson strike group, human rights abuses, U.S. Pacific ally reactions, upcoming Southeast Asian economic summits, foreign infrastructure investments in the United States, and more.