What has Donald Trump achieved in China?

US President Donald Trump visited Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines on his Asian tour. Shortly before leaving Beijing he signed several trade deals with Chinese President Xi Jinping. But they won't significantly reduce the US's trade deficit with China, commentators write, and criticise Trump for relinquishing the US's claim to global leadership.

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Savon Sanomat (FI) /

Trade deficit as big as ever

The US is not even close to balancing its trade deficit with China, Savon Sanomat comments:

“The concrete gifts Trump brought back with him from China were trade deals worth 250 billion dollars. That includes China's promise to buy 300 Boeing passenger jets. The spectacular announcement will artificially maintain Trump's self-created reputation as an unrivalled businessman. With this impressive package Trump appears to keep his promise of bringing jobs back to the US. But the news has a bitter aftertaste for Americans: the package contains declarations of intent that aren't binding for either side. China's commercial exports to the US exceed 350 billion dollars. The US would need deals worth at least as much as this one every year.”

Público (PT) /

Chinese leader called the tune

China's president clearly had the upper hand during the meeting with his US counterpart, Público concludes:

“Xi Jinping was the one who displayed self-assurance and strategic strength. He organised a regal reception and celebrated with his US counterpart business deals that will allow Trump to save face and show results in Washington. ... But it was the Chinese host who set the agenda. And Trump even did a surprising pirouette. After threatening China with drastic measures for its unfair trade practices, he said in Beijing: 'I don't blame China [for the trade imbalances]. Who can blame a country that is just trying to gain the biggest advantage for its people?”

The Independent (GB) /

Trump left dangerous vacuum for others to fill

The US president's failure to speak out for human rights at any of his meetings with Asian leaders will weaken the US geopolitically, the Independent laments:

“In choosing to remain silent on human rights, Mr Trump has highlighted again how little concerned he is about America's position at the centre of global affairs. Time and again, from his views on Nato, nuclear proliferation and climate change, Donald Trump has shown he is willing to forego US leadership in these areas. Those suspicious of the US may welcome this. But Mr Trump's ceding of such ground simply means other countries, many of them authoritarian nations such as China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, are seeking to fill the vacuum.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Trump trying his hand at diplomacy

The comparatively conciliatory tone Trump has adopted during his Asia trip shows that the US president has had to adjust his stance on China during his first year in office, Večernji list concludes:

“Whereas during his first days in the White House he fiercely attacked Beijing and brought relations between the two states almost to the freezing point, the situation has gradually changed. As recently as July Trump tweeted angrily that China was doing nothing to stop Kim Jong-un. But since this approach achieved nothing Trump accepted the reality and has decided to try his hand at diplomacy.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Harmony will be short lived

The US and China continue to pursue entirely different interests in the region, the Guardian writes:

“It is hard to believe this love is built to last. Mr Trump is predictable chiefly in his inconsistency (demonstrated already in his approach to China, as well as elsewhere). Mr Xi's remark that the two nations' interests were 'closely converging' seems, to put it mildly, a stretch. Individual deals do nothing to address structural trade issues – and many of those signed in Beijing were non-binding statements of intent. Shared anger at North Korea cannot disguise very different interests and priorities.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

China's stance unchanged

Trump is leaving China with nothing but vague promises, China correspondent Marije Vlaskamp writes in De Volkskrant:

“At the end there was a 'miracle'. At least that's what the Chinese state media breathlessly reported referring to a series of trade deals worth 253 billion dollars. But the news agency Bloomberg quickly burst that bubble: in reality the 'miracle' is nothing more than a couple of real deals and a bunch of vague promises to cooperate. ... Trump is leaving China with a bag full of glass beads but he has achieved nothing tangible. Regarding the most important point on his agenda, North Korea, Xi cranked out the same old refrain: China wants a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and is doing its best to achieve it. But he refused to publicly join Trump's 'alliance of civilised countries against North Korea'.”

The Times (GB) /

Beijing bluffing with empty promises

The only thing the Chinese leadership cares about is weakening the US and its allies, the Times warns:

“Mr Trump was full of praise for the generosity of his Chinese hosts. Their main aim, however, appears to be not the nuclear disarming of Kim but rather the weakening of America's allies in Asia. Beijing suggests that North Korea could freeze some of its missile testing in return for stopping joint exercises between the US, South Korea and Japan. That is a ploy to sap American support for Seoul and Tokyo, undermine regional security alliances and speed the US departure from Asia. Beijing surely knows that Kim has no intention of slowing down.”

Cyprus Mail (CY) /

The US has little say in the region

Ultimately Trump has little power to influence developments in North Korea, columnist Gwynne Dyer writes in the Cyprus Mail:

“The United States has no leverage over North Korea except the threat of war, so [Trump] needs China to get him off the hook. ... China won't do anything that actually threatens the survival of the North Korean regime. ... Because the survival of Communist rule in North Korea is seen in Beijing as vital - not vital to China as a whole, but to the continuation of Communist rule in China. ... No matter what the various players say now, in the end North Korea will get to keep a modest nuclear deterrent force, but it will have to agree to keep it small enough that it could not possibly launch a successful first strike.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Trump faced with limits of his power in China

China ticks in a way that businessman Trump can't relate to, Lidové noviny observes:

“From his days as a businessman Trump is used to clear answers to clear questions, but that's not what he's going to get in Asia. Why does China continue to supply Kim with oil? Why does it buy his coal? Why does China do nothing more than repeat that dialogue is necessary? The answer lies in what China means by dialogue. The most likely option is direct dialogue between Trump and Kim, with each representing their own standpoint and the US recognising North Korea as a sovereign and legitimate state. But for Trump this would mean a loss of face at home. He'd be the first American president to effectively capitulate to the Korean communists.”

Jornal de Negócios (PT) /

US president fuelling uncertainty

Trump's Asia trip is vitally important for the US's image in the region, Jornal de Negócios points out:

“Hardly any other Asia tour by a US president has been as important as that which Trump began on the weekend in Japan. This is no coincidence. While the US is turning in on itself, China is getting ready to assume the place this has left free in Asia. Economically and also, increasingly, militarily. Xi Jinping underlined this only recently during his speech at the Communist Party of China's conference. The US's allies are worried about the future role it will play in the region. Whether Trump will allay these fears, especially in countries like Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, no one knows. The unpredictability of his actions could even have the opposite effect.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Trump's curious transformation

With his first statements on his Asian tour Trump once again warned North Korea, but he refrained from fuelling the tensions any further, US correspondent Federico Rampini writes in La Repubblica, speculating about the reasons for this change:

“Where is the president who menaced with fire, flames and total destruction? Where's the mocking ridicule of the little rocket man from Pyongyang? ... What happened? Is Trump celebrating November 8, the anniversary of his incredible election victory, by morphing into a dignified president? ... Or has [US Secretary of State] Tillerson, the clever fox so often duped by his boss, scored his first successes? ... But it could also be that one of Kim Jong-un's two protector states, China and Russia, are close to getting Pyongyang to make concessions.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

No contribution to peace

Trump has once again poured fuel on the fire with his brash words to North Korea at the start of his Asia trip, the taz's China correspondent Felix Lee comments:

“Trump may have seen eye to eye with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the first leg of his trip in Tokyo. ... But the harmony disappeared as soon as the next stage started in Seoul on Tuesday. The South Koreans in particular - who would be the worst hit in the event of a North Korean military attack - are tired of all the war-mongering. Tens of thousands took part in a peace demonstration on Sunday in Seoul. And also in his dealings with China Trump has behaved like a bull in a china shop. ... Helping to bring about a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis is the last thing Trump will do on his trip. In fact we'll be lucky if the conflict doesn't heat up even more.”