CHINA’S leader, Xi Jinping, welcomed Donald Trump on the American president’s first visit to Beijing like a Chinese emperor receiving a barbarian potentate, with a mixture of flattery and disdain. The government closed to the public the 9,000-room Forbidden City—the vermilion-walled former imperial palace at the heart of Beijing—so the visitor could have his own tour and dinner there. The courtiers of the Communist Party have lost little of the ancient art of feigned deference.
The Chinese also bore gifts: trade deals worth over $200bn, covering everything from jet engines and car parts to shale gas. Most of the pledges were memoranda of understanding: expressions of intent, not enforceable contracts. Many concerned things the Chinese would have done anyway. Still, Mr Trump seemed pleased, as he also was by Mr Xi’s (reiterated) pledge to enforce UN resolutions on North Korea.
Mr Trump claims that he and Mr Xi are close. The same can hardly be said of public attitudes towards each other’s countries. A study in 2016 by Zhang Kun and Zhang Mingxin of Huazhong University of Science and Technology found that America was far down the list of countries about which the Chinese express favourable opinions—below Germany, Britain, France, Canada, Australia and Russia. Things may have changed since then because views of Mr Trump are warmer in China than in most places. But opinions of America itself are unlikely to have improved much. A survey in the same year by the Pew Research Centre in Washington also found that only half of Chinese respondents were favourable to America—much less than the global median “favourability rating” for the United States of 64% then…
Article from the “Economist”