US President Donald Trump praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a “highly respected and powerful representative of his people” on Friday as he wrapped up his first state visit to Beijing.
Trump showered his host with accolades during two days of meetings during which the US leader sought to convince Xi to do more to reduce a trade deficit with China and rein in nuclear-armed North Korea.
“My meetings with President Xi Jinping were very productive on both trade and the subject of North Korea,” the US leader wrote on Twitter before flying to Vietnam for an Asia-Pacific summit.
“He is a highly respected and powerful representative of his people. It was great being with him and Madame Peng Liyuan!” he said, referring to Xi’s wife.
Trump has repeatedly congratulated Xi for his reappointment as head of the Communist Party at a congress last month where he consolidated power — raising eyebrows over the admiration of a non-democratic process.
US and Chinese firms signed more than US$250 billion in business deals during Trump’s visit, though analysts say many were nonbinding agreements that could take years to show any results and would do little to reduce the US-China trade imbalance.
Trump, who has softened his past criticism of China, again lambasted past US administrations for allowing the US$350 billion trade deficit to balloon over the years.
“I don’t blame China, I blame the incompetence of past Admins for allowing China to take advantage of the US on trade leading up to a point where the US is losing US$100’s of billions,” he wrote as he again circumvented China’s Twitter ban.
“How can you blame China for taking advantage of people that had no clue? I would’ve done same!”
China was the showpiece of Trump’s five-nation tour of Asia, which ends on Monday.
During their talks on Thursday, Trump thanked Xi for his backing of United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang and China’s own restrictions on banking for North Koreans.
While Xi said China was committed to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, he did not announce any new steps to squeeze the reclusive regime.
‘Very special man’
Xi and Trump have struck up a friendship since their first meeting at the former real estate tycoon’s Mar-a-Lago resort in April.
Xi treated Trump to a lavish “state visit-plus” that included a private tour of the Forbidden City, a military honour guard and a banquet.
The US leader called his host a “very special man” and showed him a video of his granddaughter singing ballads in Mandarin. The two men will be in the same room again at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in the Vietnamese resort of Danang.
First Lady Melania Trump did not join the president for the rest of his Asian tour, staying in Beijing on Friday to continue the US charm offensive. She will see pandas and visit the Great Wall.
“Melania is staying behind to see the zoo, and of course, the Great WALL of China before going to Alaska to greet our AMAZING troops,” Trump tweeted.
Trump, who wants to build his own massive wall along the US-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration, did not visit the Great Wall — a usual stop for US presidents.
Chinese state-run media hailed the positive tone of the state visit, though the China Daily said in an editorial that “the differences that had been pestering bilateral ties have not instantly disappeared”.