China: We're the world's 'new role model,' and Trump needs to prove he can be 'constructive'

Key Points
  • China is calling for constructive dialogue and negotiations ahead of the President Donald Trump's visit to Beijing next week
  • But Trump also needs to reassure his hosts that the U.S. will make a "constructive contribution to regional issues," says China Daily
People visit the Tian'anmen Square on National Day on October 1, 2017 in Beijing, China. China is celebrating the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
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China is calling for constructive dialogue and negotiations ahead of the President Donald Trump's visit to Beijing next week as the world's second-largest economy balances practical diplomacy with its own growing assertiveness.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying demonstrated that balancing act when she addressed a question about the trade relationship with the U.S. on Thursday.

"With deepening and fast growing economic and trade cooperation, it is inevitable that certain differences and frictions may arise between China and the U.S. But we should be aware that this doesn't make [up] the mainstream of China-U.S. economic and trade relations," said Hua.

"We indeed hope that the U.S. will work with China for [shared goals, and] properly handle the relevant differences through dialogue and negotiation in a constructive way so as to ensure the steady and healthy development of China-U.S. economic and trade relations," Hua added, according to an official transcript.

After all, as the world's largest economies, the U.S. and China are "highly dependent" on each other, so "it's safe to say that we will swim or sink together," Hua said.

The official views were echoed by the state press which are painting a hopeful and positive picture of Trump's first presidential visit to Asia, where he will be meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing next week.

Leading English paper China Daily on Friday said Trump needs to reassure his hosts that the U.S. will make a "constructive contribution to regional issues."

"Much of the speculation ahead of Trump's visit to Asia, which began on Friday, stems from the conflicting messages that have previously been given by his administration," the editorial said. "A clear, consistent and positive message showing a willingness to cooperate and contribute constructively to resolving regional issues would go a long way toward making his trip a success."

How can Trump deliver his trade message while seeking diplomatic support in Asia?

Powerful Communist Party-owned newspaper People's Daily on Thursday called Trump's visit an "historic opportunity to boost cooperation between the world's two largest economies, and a chance to tackle the problems that dampen bilateral ties."

That comment came a few hours after People's Daily on questioned if the U.S. is still "the world's role model," and suggested that Beijing is "a new role model for political and economic development."

"... whether or not the U.S. actually remains a good role model for the world, people increasingly believe that the U.S. is, at the very least, no longer the world's only role model. This is in part because of the decline of the U.S. and, in part, because of the rise of China," the People's Daily op-ed said.

After all, the Chinese Communist party lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and created a burgeoning middle class.

"At the same time, China is helping other countries rise with game-changing initiatives such as the Belt and Road. The reality is that China is moving forward and closer to center stage," said the editorial.

"Meanwhile, the U.S. appears to be turning toward isolationism and protectionism. All of which, of course, means that China can light the world too," it added.

Despite the righteousness, China appeared to made some concessions on Thursday when China's Commerce Ministry said the country will lower tariffs and step up bank financing to support more imports and narrow its massive trade surplus, Reuters reported.

On Thursday, the foreign ministry's Hua reiterated another government pronouncement, saying China "has never intended to pursue trade surplus."

She also highlighted a 20 percent increase in China's imports from the U.S. from January to August — which was higher than the growth of total China-U.S. trade volume and China's exports to the U.S.

One area of potentially increased cooperation between the two economic giants is energy.

"Compared with China's established natural gas suppliers like Russia and Australia, U.S. gas may be more expensive due to its higher transportation costs. But besides giving a political boost to the Trump administration, the Sino-U.S. energy deals should also make good business sense for both sides to boost energy trade in the long run," Communist Party-linked Global Times said in an editorial.

Trump will be accompanied by a trade delegation during his trip to China, and multiple deals are expected to be brokered.