WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will “probably” meet at a G20 summit next month, a U.S. official said Sunday, as both sides deplored a badly strained relationship that a Chinese official called “very confusing.”
“The presidents will probably meet at the G20 in Buenos Aires,” Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on the “Fox News Sunday” program.
But he added that trade talks with China — with each side imposing a mounting series of tariffs on the other, raising fears of a shock to the global economy — had so far been “unsatisfactory.”
“The relationship has not been positive lately,” Kudlow said.
China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, raised similar doubts about the relationship between the world’s two largest economic powers.
Also appearing on Fox, he confirmed reports that China has grown frustrated in trade talks because of conflicting signals from the Trump administration. Cui said other ambassadors in Washington shared his frustration.
“They don’t know who was the final decision-maker” in the administration, he said. “Of course, presumably the president would take the final decision. But who is playing what role? It can be very confusing.”
He also complained about a recent incident in which a U.S. Navy ship, in a “freedom of navigation” exercise, sailed close to a disputed island claimed by China in the South China Sea.
“This is a very good example of American intervention into Chinese internal affairs,” Cui said, adding that U.S. officials would not be pleased if Chinese warships entered the Gulf of Mexico.
Kudlow concurred that the differences between the two sides extend beyond trade.
“The relationship has not been positive lately, and we have to have reciprocity in all of these areas: trade, security, military issues. That’s what is at stake here,” he said.
Earlier this month, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence issued a long litany of complaints against China. He accused Beijing of “predatory” trade practices, of military “aggression,” of massive attacks on personal freedoms and religious minorities, and even of electoral interference aimed at unseating Trump by running ads in American newspapers.
Cui replied on Fox that Chinese media were “just learning from American media to use all these means to buy commercial pages from newspapers,” adding, “This is a normal practice for all the media.”
But the ambassador also held out hope for the Buenos Aires meeting.
Two earlier meetings between the presidents, he said, had made it “clear that such top-level communication played a key role, irreplaceable role in guiding the relationship forward. And there is good mutual understanding and good working relationship between the two.
“I hope, and I’m sure, this will continue.”