THE phone talk held by Chinese President Xi Jinping with his US counterpart Donald Trump is a good first step in fostering the China-US dialogue and provides a platform for further cooperation, US experts said Friday.
“The phone call was a good first step…for fostering dialogue between Presidents Trump and Xi,” Dan Mahaffee, an analyst at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, told Xinhua in an interview.
Trump and Xi held a lengthy and “extremely cordial” phone conversation Thursday night on numerous topics, during which they agreed that the two sides will engage in discussions on various issues of mutual interest.
“The fact that it was cordial, and the discussion’ s tenor reflects that both leaders understand that while differences remain, they need to be addressed through dialogue and diplomacy,” Mahaffee said.
Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International peace, told Xinhua that the call “was very important to provide a foundation of stability in the US-China relations as well as a platform for further wide-ranging cooperation and the management of emerging tensions.”
The call was the first between the leaders of the top two economies in the world since Trump’s inauguration in late January. Before Thursday, Trump had already talked on the phone with about 20 foreign leaders except Xi, fueling concerns that the absence of contact between the two leaders could lead to renewed tensions in the China-US ties.
The Xi-Trump phone conversation was important to break the ice in the China-US ties, Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua in an interview.
“The call helped to open the door on high-level consultation, which is good for both countries,” West said.
“It is important that China and the US remain in close contact. They are the two leading nations in the world and it is crucial that there are open communications so there are no misunderstandings or (something) that could spiral out of control,” he added.
The experts agreed that Trump’s affirmation of the one-China policy, the bedrock of the China-US ties, paved the way for the phone call, which probably came after Trump and advisers concluded that the costs of not doing so could bring greater costs than benefits.
Trump had previously aggravated China by taking a call from Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen after winning the US presidency last November and telling the US media in December that the one-China policy was open for negotiation.
“The fact that Trump now embraces the one-China policy will allow the relationship to unfold more naturally,” West said, citing that resolving the issue was a prerequisite for addressing every other issue.
If Trump continues to question the one China policy, there would be no basis for President Xi to interact with him, said Paal, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan.
Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Xinhua that Trump probably was convinced by his top aides that it was necessary to make the one-China statement “in order to move forward with the US-China relationship in other areas.”
“The costs of not adhering to the one China policy were very high,” Glaser said, though adding that this should not be seen as Trump making a concession.
Media reports revealed that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said in written answers to questions after his Senate nomination hearing that the US should adhere to the one-China policy.
As China and the US start negotiations to address their frictions and advance cooperation on various issues of mutual interest, there is a broad range of issues that demand early attention, the experts said.
They include the nuclear program of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, US trade deficit with China, mutual investments and boosting American exports, Paal said.
Mahaffee said at the top of the agenda of the China-US talks should be the issues of maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas, cyber security, as well as trade, investment and currency.
“I think there can be discussions aimed at avoiding miscalculation between the nations in the sea, air, space and cyber domains, and I also think that agreements on trade and investment could be reached that would make it easier for companies from either country to invest in the other,” he said.