Chinese President Xi Jinping left Beijing Tuesday afternoon for a state visit to Finland before travelling to Florida, the United States for the China-U.S. presidents’ meeting at Mar-a-Lago.
At the invitation of President Sauli Niinisto of Finland and President Donald Trump of the United States, Xi is scheduled to visit Finland from April 4 to 6.
He will meet with Trump from April 6 to 7, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
Xi’s entourage includes his wife Peng Liyuan; Wang Huning, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee; Wang Yang, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Vice Premier; Li Zhanshu, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee; and State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
Thursday’s meeting between Trump and Xi is attracting global attention, not just because it is a meeting between leaders of the world’s biggest economies, but also because the two leaders have contrasting personalities.
As Reuters wrote, Trump is a brash “tweeter-in-chief”, while Xi is a cautious, calculating leader.
Both leaders however share one thing in common: their rhetoric about restoring their nations to greatness.
They however differ in almost every other respect, from their political styles to their diplomatic experience, adding uncertainty to what has been called the world’s most important bilateral relationship.
Five months after his election on a stridently anti-China platform, Trump appears to have set himself on a course for collision rather than conciliation with Xi, raising doubts as to whether the world’s two biggest economies can find common ground.
Topping the agenda at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida will be whether he will make good on his threat to use crucial U.S.-China trade ties to pressure Beijing to do more to rein in its nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea, which is working to develop missiles capable of hitting the United States.
Trump, a 70-year-old former real estate magnate with no foreign policy experience before entering the White House, has tweeted that it will be a “very difficult” meeting with the veteran Communist Party leader seven years his junior, given Chinese trade practices he says are killing U.S. jobs.
He has also demanded that Beijing do more to “solve” the North Korean problem – his biggest national security challenge – or he will act alone to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
Some White House aides believe Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner could be an influential moderating voice on how he handles Xi in their talks on Thursday and Friday. Contacts between Kushner and China’s U.S. envoy helped smooth the way for the meeting, according to current and former U.S. officials.
Even so, what worries the protocol-conscious Chinese more than policy clashes is the risk that the unpredictable Trump could publicly embarrass Xi, after several foreign leaders experienced awkward moments with the new U.S. president.
“Ensuring President Xi does not lose face is a top priority for China,” a Chinese official said.