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Trump trip can pave the way for smooth ties ahead

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-10 07:55

US President Donald Trump clearly had a good time on Wednesday, the day he and his wife Melania Trump arrived in Beijing. In his tweets, he thanked China and its leaders for the "beautiful welcome" and "unforgettable afternoon and evening at the Forbidden City".

The same day, Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang and US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross witnessed the signing of business deals worth $9 billion.

The day happened to be the one-year anniversary of Trump winning a surprise victory in the 2016 election.

It is understandable that some long-standing issues between the two countries, such as US concern for market access and intellectual property and Chinese concern for excessive scrutiny of Chinese investment in the US and restriction of high-tech exports to China, won't be resolved during this visit.

Just look at how difficult it is for the Trump administration, or any US administration, to push for major domestic policy changes, whether it's healthcare or tax reform.

In fact, two identical bills introduced on Wednesday in the US Senate and House of Representatives to beef up the scrutiny of foreign investment, especially from China, if passed, would worsen the concern on the Chinese side.

And China's reform and opening-up in the past four decades is a process of gradual evolution. Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping described it as "crossing the river by feeling the stones", meaning it is generally going forward but might move sideward or even backward sometimes.

Looking back at China's great transformation in the past decades, however, no one would deny it has made remarkable progress on all fronts-economic, social and even political.

If you can adjust like this and take a historical view, you are more likely to show patience and understanding. After all, China is a country with one-fifth of the world's population but whose per capita GDP is only one-seventh of that of the US. Things don't change overnight because its leaders snap their fingers.

Time seems a different concept in the two countries. China is known for its long-term planning, such as its five-year plans and even a plan into 2049, the centennial of the People's Republic. Americans tend to seek immediate results. A US president will usually talk about his vision for the next four years.

Mutual understanding is important because it would encourage the two sides to spend more time in expanding practical win-win cooperation rather than being overly obsessed with issues that won't be solved in a short period of time, or even a longer period of time.

This is not to say that they should overlook the issues. Instead, they should try to manage and mitigate the challenges and not allow them to hold back the overall relationship.

In marking his one-year anniversary, Trump has pleasantly surprised many who a year ago were deeply worried about a trade war between the two countries given his harsh campaign rhetoric. Today, few are worried about this anymore despite the fact that trade frictions might increase as the two largest economies become more interdependent.

Trump has also surprised many for his relatively good handling of the US-China relations, including forging a close working and personal relationship with President Xi Jinping.

The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as described by Xi as the Chinese Dream and the "Make America Great Again" policy as promised by Trump will only become more attainable if the two countries work closely to expand their cooperation, instead of indulging in any wasteful zero-sum game.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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