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International relations

Trump-Xi summit: For China, a tale of two Trumps

US policies creating leadership vacuum, while 'America First' nationalism creates friction

| China
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Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump   © Reuters

The Trump-Xi summit comes at an inflection point for the U.S.-China relationship. It will likely shape the tone and trajectory of the world's most important bilateral relationship, which is filled with a large degree of tension and uncertainty.

Regardless of the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, U.S.-China relations would have been at a crossroads. The bipartisan consensus that has guided U.S. policy since Nixon's opening to China in 1972 has shattered. Chinese maritime assertiveness, intellectual property theft, and nationalist industrial and trade policies have tilted the part cooperative, part competitive relationship toward the latter. But U.S. President Donald Trump has added a large layer of uncertainty. His meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he tweeted, would be "very difficult" because "we can no longer have massive trade deficits."

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