World Economy

Trump-Xi summit: Here's what one expert is watching

Vaibhavee Sinha
North Korea is top of the agenda: Think tank

When President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet for the first time on Thursday, many will be closely watching the interaction for clues about how the relationship between the world's two largest economies will play out — at least for the next four years.

"Expectations are amazingly high for a meeting that is taking place only 75 days after President Trump has come into office," Scott Kennedy, deputy director of the Freeman Chair in China Studies and director of the Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday

When asked what Trump would be expecting from this meeting Kennedy said, "Trump, I don't think, is looking for firm commitments on the Chinese, but ... to set a tone and the direction of the relationship."

Trump has repeatedly criticized China, including when he said, "We can't continue to allow China to rape our country. And that's what they're doing. It's the greatest theft in the history of the world."

Trump has also raised eyebrows for confrontational tweets on currencies, North Korea and the South China Sea along with his telephone call with Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen.

However, according to Kennedy, China might be able to walk away with more than just a rehashing of complaints.

"Xi Jinping is looking for more to walk away with in this meeting in terms of promises than the other way around," he said, adding that Xi will look for Trump to delay installation of the THAAD missile defense system.

Xi will also "try and slow things down" on the North Korea issue, Kennedy said, while Trump may focus on Chinese industrial policy obstacles to American exports and foreign investment.

"That can't be waved away with a single hand of Xi Jinping," Kennedy said of that latter issue.