President Donald Trump on Thursday said he has "no doubt" that Chinese President Xi Jinping could bring an end to the unrest in Hong Kong by meeting face to face with the protesters.
Trump said this in a tweet Thursday morning, less than a day after he first appeared to propose that a "personal meeting" between himself and Xi could bring a speedy end to "the Hong Kong problem."
All aspects of the U.S.-China relationship have come under intense scrutiny, as the escalating trade war between Beijing and Washington roils global markets and tensions ratchet up between mainland China and protesters in semiautonomous Hong Kong.
Trump has been criticized for taking an ambiguous stance on the Chinese government's action in Hong Kong, where hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets originally to protest a divisive extradition bill supported by Beijing.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and China have both upped the ante in the ongoing trade war between the world's two biggest economies.
In early August, Trump announced he would slap 10% tariffs by September on the remaining $300 billion or so worth of Chinese imports not subject to levies.
The admission Tuesday from Trump, who has long claimed that his tariffs only helped the U.S. at China's expense, sent the market soaring. The next day, however, the president claimed "the American consumer is fine with or without the September date, but much good will come from the short deferral to December."
The U.S. has already imposed 25% tariffs on about $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, while China has fired back by slapping duties on about $110 billion in U.S. imports.
After Trump threatened to put tariffs on the remaining balance of Chinese imports, Beijing announced it would no longer buy U.S. agricultural products — a major blow to farmers who were already hurting from the trade war. The U.S. followed by labeling China a currency manipulator.
China on Thursday threatened further retaliation if new U.S. tariffs go into effect Sept. 1, as they're largely still planned to do.
A few hours after the initial statement, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry took a softer tone, saying Beijing hopes to "meet the U.S. halfway" on trade issues.