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U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and China's President Xi Jinping in Palm Beach, Florida, in April   © Reuters

Donald Trump in the Forbidden City

US president will struggle to find common ground with Xi Jinping

| China

American President Donald Trump's first summit with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in April this year in Florida produced a lot of warm and fuzzy rhetoric but no big win for the former real estate magnate. The best thing one could say about the encounter at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort is that it allayed, at least temporarily, the fear that the new president elected on a protectionist agenda would carry out his threat of imposing punitive tariffs on Chinese imports and destroy the economic foundations of the world's most important bilateral relationship.

The reason for the reprieve, it turned out, was not Trump's change of mind, but the intrusion of a more pressing matter: North Korea's dangerous quest for nuclear weapons capable of striking the continental United States. Without receiving a firm pledge of full Chinese cooperation, Trump, a foreign policy neophyte, apparently believed that he could leverage his threat of curtailing Chinese imports to get Beijing to adopt punishing sanctions and force Pyongyang to suspend, if not abandon, its nuclear and missiles programs.

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