China's tough talk with the United States and its recent cooperation on trade issues are not mutually exclusive, said Robert Hormats, former State Department undersecretary for economic growth.
In fact, they go hand in hand.
"Ironically they combine in China," Hormats told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday. "Nationalistic statements at home give you a bit of latitude to do what you need to do to help strengthen the Chinese economy through trade and investment."
At the same time China has taken a tough position with the United States and some if its neighbors, it also has reached out to develop a new Silk Road comprised of infrastructure projects throughout Southeast and East Asia, said Hormats, who is now associate chairman at Kissinger Associates.
Hormats made the comments in response to a question about Chinese President Xi Jinping's promotion of a Chinese blogger known for anti-American sentiment shortly before Xi met with President Barack Obama.
This week, the two countries announced agreements on carbon emission reductions and the removal of tariffs on information technology goods.