WASHINGTON – Donald Trump tried hard to convince the world’s elite this week that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping have left their trade war behind them and they’ve moved on to a brighter future.
But many participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, aren’t convinced that the U.S. president’s words here really translate to a declaration of peace.
On Tuesday, Trump acknowledged that the U.S.-China relationship “went through a very rough patch, but it’s never, ever been better.”
“My relationship with President Xi is an extraordinary one,” Trump told a packed auditorium in Davos. “He’s for China, I’m for the U.S. But other than that, we love each other.”
In private sessions, though, executives and scholars from both countries have expressed skepticism that phase one of their trade agreement will be the end of this battle for economic, technological and military supremacy — and many believe that even with the partial deal in place, the U.S. will likely keep putting pressure on China on other fronts.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that new rules to further choke off Huawei from U.S. suppliers are coming soon.
One person here described the U.S.-China relationship as an onion: Tariffs are the outer layer that’s been peeled off. What’s underneath are many more layers of policies like subsidies and technology issues that seem hard to reconcile. But the core of the onion is what really stands in the way of a positive trajectory, and that’s deep mistrust.
By now, the audience also knows that the president’s “love” for other leaders — including for Xi — is something that can change quickly.
“Trump also said he loves Kim Jong Un — he loves everyone,” said Dr. Yuan Ding, vice president and dean at the China Europe International Business School. “He kisses and then he curses.”