US President Donald Trump praised his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a US delegation arrived in Beijing yesterday for talks on tariffs, with state media saying China will stand up to US bullying.
A breakthrough deal to fundamentally change China's economic policies is viewed as highly unlikely during the two-day visit, though a package of short-term Chinese measures could delay a US decision to impose tariffs on about $50 billion worth of Chinese exports.
The discussions, led by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, are expected to cover a wide range of US complaints about China's trade practices, from accusations of forced technology transfers to state subsidies for technology development.
"Thrilled to be here. Thank you," Mnuchin told Reuters on arriving at his hotel, when asked if he expected progress. He made no other comments.
As Mnuchin arrived, Trump tweeted: "Our great financial team is in China trying to negotiate a level playing field on trade! I look forward to being with President Xi in the not too distant future. We will always have a good (great) relationship!"
It was not clear when Trump and Xi might meet again next, though both will likely attend some of the same multilateral summits this year, including G20 and APEC.
Throughout his 2016 election campaign, Trump routinely threatened to impose a 45 percent across-the-board tariff on Chinese goods as a way to level the playing field for American workers. At the time, he was also accusing China of manipulating its currency to gain an export advantage, a claim that his administration has since dropped.
The US Embassy in Beijing said the delegation planned to meet Chinese officials on both days, in addition to US Ambassador Terry Branstad, before leaving on Friday evening.
The delegation returned to their hotel late on yesterday evening without taking questions from reporters, though one US official simply answered "Well" when asked how the talks were going. It was not clear who the official was.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying earlier said the talks had begun, but she had no information on them.
She reiterated that China welcomed the talks but that they had to be founded on equality and mutual respect.
"The outcome should be mutually beneficial and win-win," Hua said, speaking at a regular briefing.
In a commentary widely cited in Chinese media on Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency said if things went poorly and a trade war did break out, China would never yield and would hit back strongly.
"China will inevitably suffer losses, but China has the political advantage of a centralised and unified leadership and support of a massive domestic market," it said.
The official China Daily said in an editorial China would "stand up to the US' bullying as necessary".
"The US wants greater access to China's market, but it should not use trade actions as a battering ram to force China to open its doors. It is already in the process of opening them wider," the English-language newspaper said.
In doing so, China expected Washington to reciprocate and open its market to Chinese investment and competition, it said.