China Says Trump Is Open for Silk Road Cooperation

June 24, 2017

As Bloomberg reported yesterday President Donald Trump told China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi at a meeting that the U.S. is willing to cooperate on projects related to its Belt and Road Initiative, according to a statement from China's Foreign Ministry. Yang Jiechi was in Washington to co-chair the first China-U.S. diplomatic and security dialogue, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis; top members of the PLA general staff also attended the meeting.

Since his April meeting with President Xi Jinping in Florida, Trump has toned down the anti-China rhetoric from the 2016 election campaign, and sent one of his top advisors, Matt Pottinger, National Security Council senior director for East Asia, as the U.S. representative at China's Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May. Engagement with President Xi Jinping's signature project to build new trade and investment links between Asia, Europe, and Africa would mark a contrast to the Obama administration, which turned down the opportunity to be a founding member of the related Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The Obama White House even organized vociferously with U.S. allies against the AIIB, although largely in vain.

Yang told Trump in a White House meeting June 22 that China highly appreciated the U.S. attendance at the gathering and would be willing to work with the U.S. on the initiative, said Beijing's Foreign Ministry. The President responded that he would also be open to working together on related projects.

Trump told Yang that he's happy with the positive progress made in relations since meeting Xi and is looking forward to meeting China's President again at the July 7-8 G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, and visiting China within the year. Whereas a date for an official Trump visit to Beijing has not yet been arranged, China has invited Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom hold posts in the White House, to visit later this year, Bloomberg reported, citing its sources.

White House support for Belt and Road Initiative would be "a boon for China-U.S. relations," said He Weiwen, deputy director of the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, and a former business attaché in the Chinese consulates of New York and San Francisco. "The Belt and Road projects are so big that Chinese companies can't do them alone. They need to find partners elsewhere, including the U.S." U.S. companies have already been deeply involved in the projects along the path, and business leaders on both sides have been calling for cooperation in third countries, he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a Beijing-based think tank staffed by a number of retired senior government officials, said in a joint statement June 21 that the two nations can engage in full cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative and through a number of other means including the AIIB, World Bank, and other multilateral investment and financing institutions.