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Asian leaders see Trump as a 'very weak' president, expert says

  • President Trump's tendency towards noise over action has undermined his Presidential status in Asia, according to Chinese political analyst Jonathan Fenby.
  • Fenby says China is confused by the different signals emerging from the White House.
  • The comments come as the U.S. and China continue to tackle increasingly tense relations with North Korea.

He's the leader of the largest economy in the world, but President Donald Trump's inability to deliver on his aims has made him lose standing among some of his biggest rivals and most crucial diplomatic allies, according to one Chinese political analyst.

"The evaluation of Trump, which certainly I get from a lot of Asians and speaking to Chinese people, is that actually they see Trump as a very weak President," Jonathan Fenby, China chairman at LS Lombard, told CNBC Friday.

The U.S. president has had a tightrope to tread in Asia as he seeks the help of allied nations to defuse increasingly fraught relations with North Korea while attempting to rewrite what he considers an imbalanced trade relationship with China.

However, according to Fenby, his tendency to make noise but act little has been noted by Asian leaders and their citizens and could be undermining his power.

President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) walk together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) walk together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017.

"He may speak big but can't deliver in the end and doesn't quite know where he wants to go," Fenby said, noting that China prefers more "formalistic" leaders.

"There are so many different, confusing messages coming out of Washington at the moment that (firstly) other countries find it difficult to know what is policy and, secondly, they tend in that context to see the White House as being in quite a tight spot,"

Over the past fortnight, the Trump administration has wavered on its response to new threats from North Korea, which continues to target the U.S. with test missile launches. U.S. CIA chief Mike Pompeo has suggested that the government could seek to oust North Korean President Kim Jong Un, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said he wishes to open dialogue with the totalitarian state.

Nevertheless, other analysts suggest that shared interests between the two world powers will ultimately outweigh the noise from Washington.

"I think there's room for common ground to come to mutual understanding," Justin Lin, director at the Centre for New Structural Economics at Peking University and former chief economist at the World Bank, said at a U.S.-China Relations conference held earlier in the year.

"I am confident that when it comes to reality, what's good for China is good for the U.S."