China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi on first official US visit in Donald Trump era

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Beijing | Published: February 27, 2017 1:07:49 PM

China's top diplomat will be in the US this week on the first official visit from the country since President Donald Trump took office, amid signs of strain in ties over trade relations and growing tension in east Asia.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi (Reuters)

China’s top diplomat will be in the US this week on the first official visit from the country since President Donald Trump took office, amid signs of strain in ties over trade relations and growing tension in east Asia.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi will be in Washington for two days beginning today. He will exchange views with senior Trump administration officials on bilateral ties and issues of common concern, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.

Yang, the top diplomat in Chinese political hierarchy who has served as ambassador to Washington, is the first senior official from China to visit the US since Trump took office on January 20.

His visit coincides with the 45th anniversary of US President Richard Nixon’s ice-breaking visit to China in 1972, which paved the way for establishing diplomatic ties in 1979.

And it comes after Trump agreed to “honour” the ‘One China’ policy, which considers Taiwan part of China, during a telephonic conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on February 10, retracting from his previous public stance that he would negotiate the policy.

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The future of US-China ties remain uncertain after Trump accused the world’s second-largest economy of cheating at trade and repeatedly called it a “currency manipulator”.

Trump has also slammed China over its assertive moves in the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing has built islands that can potentially be used for military purposes.

Before Trump assumed office, he had called up Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen ruffling feathers in Beijing. The call was thought to be the first between the leader from the island and a US president since bilateral ties were severed in 1979.

Trump has often suggested he might use Taiwan as leverage in negotiations with China to rein in communist North Korea.

Ahead of Yang’s visit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his US counterpart Rex Tillerson informally met last week on the sidelines of a G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Bonn, Germany.

Jia Xiudong, a research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies, told state-run Xinhua news agency that Yang will have an extensive range of topics to discuss with the Americans, but the foremost would be to reaffirm the tone of bilateral ties set by the two heads of state in their phone conversation.

Xi has told Trump building a sound bilateral relationship is in the interests of the two peoples.

Despite twists and turns, China-US ties have progressed as both the Republican and Democratic parties understand the importance of the relationship, Jia said.

He said China and the US will have exchanges on trade, security and international issues, on which Trump may take policies different from the Obama administration.

Xi-Trump meeting will top Yang’s agenda in US, Jia added.

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