The first meeting between President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump carries special significance because it will ascertain what sort of China-U.S. relations the new administration in Washington wants, and whether the two sides can be on the same page over where to steer the all-important relationship in the years to come.
After all, although Beijing has been persistent in pursuing mutually beneficial ties through win-win cooperation, and made that intention very clear, what it has seen and heard from Washington lately have been rather inconsistent, at times contradictory. Most upsetting of all were the confusing signals about what Washington is really after when it comes to its relations with Beijing, especially in matters that the latter holds as its core interests, such as Taiwan and the South China Sea.
It is thus encouraging to see the meeting going as well as it could, and both parties seem equally enthusiastic about the constructive relationship they have promised to cultivate. Not just the Chinese officials present at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, but also other Chinese might have been filled with a sense of optimism about China-U.S. relations hearing Trump's grandchildren sing the famous traditional Chinese ballad Jasmine Flower, reciting a Tang-Dynasty (618-907) poem and the Three-Character Primer.
Xi made a great point in stating there are "a thousand reasons to make the China-U.S. relationship a success" and there is "not a single reason to break it". Like he has said before, and reiterated at the meeting, "cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the U.S., and our two countries have every reason to become very good cooperation partners".
This may sound surreal to those preoccupied with an "inescapable" conflict scenario between what they see as rising and incumbent powers. But that Beijing and Washington have so far managed to do well in preventing conflicts shows confrontation is not inevitable. On the contrary, when both are in the mood for collaboration, like on the issue of climate change－though this does not seem to be a priority for the Trump administration－they can make great achievements together.
Xi's proposal to "address differences and sensitive issues with constructive approaches, and let people of both countries have a greater sense of gain from the development of China-U.S. relations", on the other hand, echoes Trump's aspiration to make foreign relations better serve U.S. interests.
The first day of their talks was successful in that it created a constructive atmosphere for more in-depth exchanges on the second day.
Since this top-level meeting is supposed to deliver a badly needed sense of direction to China-U.S. relations in a still fluid U.S. policy framework, it is important to make sure it is not led astray by any disruptions.
After all, the constructive relationship both sides have committed to can grow only if they manage their ties well.