President Donald Trump is slated to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his luxurious Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but many wonder whether he will really be giving the Chinese head of state the presidential treatment.
According to prior statements made by then-presidential candidate Trump, the answer may very well have been no, if we were to take Trump’s facetious words seriously. The Washington Times reports that in August of 2015, Donald Trump stated that if he were to be elected president, he would serve McDonald’s hamburgers to President Xi so that they could “get down to work.”
However, ABC News reports that President Trump and President Xi will indeed share a traditional meal during Xi’s first night at Mar-a-Lago, but it is unclear whether Trump will go through the pomp and circumstance displayed by President Barack Obama during Xi’s last meeting with the American president. The Chinese Foreign Ministry revealed Thursday that the Mar-a-Lago meetings will occur on April 6 and April 7. The talks will focus on halting North Korea’s nuclear plans as well as tense discussions over China’s military and trade policies, according to the New York Times.
…and job losses. American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
President Trump’s controversial statements were made as the Republican presidential candidate lambasted China’s trade practices and accused the country of devaluing its currency during an interview with talk show host Bill O’Reilly on August 24, 2016. After O’Reilly mentioned that President Xi was “getting a big dinner free at the White House,” he asked Donald Trump if he would give the Chinese president the same treatment.
According to the Washington Times, Trump replied, “I would not be throwing him a dinner…I’d get him a McDonald’s hamburger and I’d say we’ve gotta get down to work because you can’t continue to devalue.”
Trump was referring to China’s alleged practice of devaluing their currency. According to the Wall Street Journal, China deliberately weakens its currency in order to help its exporters sell goods to foreign nations. This practice is bad for American manufacturing because it gives Chinese companies an even greater advantage in the marketplace by making their goods cheaper.
Ostensibly taking him at his word, a shocked O’Reilly asked Trump if he would really be so confrontational with the Chinese President.
Trump quipped, “Yeah, but I’d give him probably a double-size[d] Big Mac,” reports the Washington Times.
According to ABC News, Trump stated that as president, he would officially claim China to be a currency manipulator and might raise import tariffs on Chinese products.
The Chinese president’s Mar-a-Lago visit will be the very first meeting between President Xi and President Trump, according to the New York Times. However, President Trump and President Xi had a phone conversation on February 9. According to ABC News, that exchange included a commitment from Trump to honor the “one China” policy that has been in place since 1979. This policy requires that the U.S. refrain from maintaining any formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, a region that China considers to be part of its own territory. ABC News claims that this decision could have been made to allay China’s fears that President Trump might use Taiwan to his advantage when trade talks finally occur.
This acquiescence might come as a surprise considering Trump’s tough talk on China. However, this attitude makes sense considering the recent nuclear threat posed by North Korea, a country that receives large amounts of economic support from China, according to ABC News. Cooperation with China when dealing with North Korea is a top priority for the Mar-a-Lago meeting.
It is unclear how President Trump will balance courting China’s support on the North Korea issue with confronting President Xi on his country’s controversial trade practices and military aggression in the South China Sea. What is clear is President Trump’s affinity for McDonald’s hamburgers, about which Vanity Fair states he has not been shy. Perhaps his joke was not an insult after all.
[Featured Image by Gene J. Puskar and Andrew Harrer/AP Images]