Trump gushes, Xi grins in US-China lovefest

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Beijing's charm offensive seems to be working as visiting US president lavishes praise on hosts

BEIJING If Chinese President Xi Jinping was trying to impress US President Donald Trump during his visit to Beijing, it seems to have worked.

Mr Trump was effusive in his praise of Mr Xi and China, even admiring Beijing's ability to run up a huge trade surplus at US expense, which Mr Trump blamed on his predecessors.

He described as "tremendous" his meetings with Mr Xi on topics including trade, North Korea and opioids, despite the lack of major breakthroughs on easing access to China for US companies, or further pushing North Korea to halt its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The two had spent the previous afternoon with their wives, touring and dining at the Forbidden City, a privilege rarely given to visiting leaders.

"As we said, there's great chemistry, and I think we're going to do tremendous things, both for China and the United States," Mr Trump said.

Stylistically, the leaders of the world's two largest economies are opposites: Mr Xi is scripted and cautious, cultivating a down-to-earth image; Mr Trump, a developer and reality TV star, is known for his tweets and rhetorical hyperbole.

China wants to deflect US pressure on North Korea, and to avoid escalating trade tensions that seemed inevitable after Mr Trump, during his presidential campaign, accused China of "raping" the US with trade practices.

"China attaches great importance to guanxi (personal relationships) and it's especially important... to see Xi get on so well with a foreign leader," said Mr Wang Huiyao, head of the Centre for China and Globalization, a think tank.

Mr Trump seemed so enthusiastic about Mr Xi that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked if Mr Trump had been too deferential.

"I didn't detect that at all," Mr Tillerson said.

Mr Xi did not openly reciprocate Mr Trump's praise, maintaining his usual impassive demeanour, although he grinned when Mr Trump said he did not blame China for the trade gap and again when he called Mr Xi someone who got things done.

"I don't blame China," Mr Trump said of the trade deficit.

"Who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit." - REUTERS

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