A much more important phone call was the first-ever such contact last Friday between Xi and Abe — a crowning achievement for Abe's long years of patient and persistent pursuit of dialog with the Chinese leader. Even with Xi's mandatory reminder that Japan should "remember history and draw proper conclusions," Abe now knows that China's huge and rapidly expanding market is opening wider to Japanese trade and investments.
Beijing says it is "ready to press the reset button with Tokyo," Abe is expected to come to China this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, and Xi's visit to Japan is planned for next year.
And while the U.S. was announcing that "there will be consequences" to China's military installations on contested islands in the South China Sea, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was saying that relations with China will "bloom ... like a big and beautiful flower," while thanking China for helping his "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure program.
Vietnam, another supposed "opponent" to China's expansion, is currently working to "lift the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership" with Beijing to a new level by aligning its "Two Corridors and One Economic Circle" development program with "Belt and Road" infrastructure projects.
Indonesia, where China remains the largest trade partner, is making similar efforts to upgrade its infrastructure with the help of Chinese investments and financial assistance to build power plants, roads, bridges and high-speed rail lines.
Those are some of the most prominent examples of deeply entrenched and rapidly expanding China ties in East Asia. One could also add to that list Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
It is easy to understand why all these countries openly, or tacitly, support China in its trade standoff with the U.S. And that sympathy for China will probably keep increasing as the hostile rhetoric and obstacles to trade flows continue to escalate.
But the most regrettable and strident accusations of American "trade protectionism" come from the European Union. For Washington, that was one trade fight too many. A total miscalculation and a masterclass of how one converts an eminently valid and relatively minor trade complaint with friendly allies into a devastating liability.