The White House has indicated that President Donald Trump is not overly concerned by Chinese leader Xi Jinping's recent move to consolidate power by abolishing presidential term limits, but perhaps he should be.
Trump's press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters on Monday that the decision is one "for China to make about what's best for their country," but by clearing the way for his own indefinite rule, Xi has presented Trump with a challenge unique to any president since Richard Nixon in the 1970s.
While Xi would prefer to strike a deal with Trump, China is ready and willing to respond to any negative action that the Trump administration may take," he added.
"The Trump administration's national security strategy and national defense strategy both discussed great power competition with China as a leading challenge for the United States, and I don't expect that Trump is going to get snookered," he said.
Almost no one noticed when Xi reportedly told Russian President Vladimir Putin in March that their “personalities” were similar.
But now, six months later, Xi appears to be more of a Putin than a Mikhail Gorbachev, behaving like a leader more interested in consolidating his power and ensuring the survival of an authoritarian system than in adopting significant political reforms.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Wednesday, October 25, as the new lineup was unveiled for the Chinese Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.
The new lineup did not include an heir apparent to Xi, who analysts predict will dominate the country's politics for decades to come.
Trump now has the dubious honor of being the President in office alongside the most powerful Chinese leader of the modern age, at a time when China has never been more politically and economically assertive.
There was, after all, no election campaign to introduce him to China; instead, his ascent came about as the result of compromises between factions in the Communist Party, reached entirely behind closed doors.
Complicating matters, Xi has sent different messages as he has sought to unify the party behind him.
I give China great credit."Trump also praised China on Monday for doing "more, probably, than they've ever done" in pressuring North Korea, but he said Russia has undercut those efforts to isolate North Korea by "sending in what China is taking out."But despite lavishing praise on Xi for his efforts to help curb the development of North Korea's nuclear program, Trump has repeatedly indicated that the US needs significant assistance from China for sanctions against the rogue regime to have the desired effect.
"International sanctions on North Korea have tightened dramatically in the past 18 months and Chinese banks are attempting to signal to their global counter-parties that they are compliant with all regulations," according to Varun Vira, chief operating officer at C4ADS, which tracks illicit funding to North Korea. "Chinese banks have claimed to be closing North Korean accounts for years now, and besides, most significant account-holders at these institutions who are attempting to evade sanctions are unlikely to be overtly North Korean passport holders.
Trump yanked the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January 2017, leaving the door open for Beijing to push its own brand of trade in a region that is home to many of the world's fastest-growing economies."I don't blame China," Trump said during remarks to business leaders inside the Great Hall of the People.