Trump-Xi Summit Was No Pain, No Gain

By William Heidlage

William Heidlage is a Research Director at BowerGroupAsia, where he analyzes the impact of politics in Northeast Asia on the commercial environment.

At 8:40PM EDT last Thursday, as the two were wrapping up a ceremonial dinner with their families, President Donald Trump informed President Xi Jinping that the United States was concluding a cruise missile strike against a Syrian airfield involved in a chemical weapons attack against rebels earlier in the week.

In the limited context of U.S.-China relations, the strikes against Syria, a regional partner of China’s, followed a weeks-long campaign by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose tough talk on North Korea included putting “all options on the table”. To Beijing, which views an unstable Korean peninsula as one of the greatest potential threats to China’s national security, Tillerson’s comments, combined with very real unilateral action in Syria, likely raised the stakes for the Chinese to need a successful summit between the leaders on Friday.

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