President Donald Trump has spoken with 16 world leaders since he took office, but Chinese President Xi Jinping has yet to receive a call.
The U.S.-China bilateral relationship has traditionally been regarded as one of the world’s most important relationships — both Trump and the Chinese government have said as much, yet the last time Trump and Xi spoke was shortly after the election, when Xi warned that “cooperation is the only correct choice.”
Trump connected with Japan, South Korea and Australia — the key players in the alliance-based Asia Pacific security structure. He has also spoken with Russia and European partners, such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
He has talked to Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, India, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.
Since the election, Trump has spoken with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe three times, and the prime minister is scheduled to stop by the White House for a visit next Friday.
China has not received a call. China, a country obsessed with its status and recognition as a great power, may interpret that as an intended slight by the new administration.
When Barack Obama took office in 2009, he called then-Chinese President Hu Jintao within a matter of days to develop “a more positive and constructive U.S.-China relationship.”
Since the election, Trump has run roughshod over some of China’s “core interests” and sensitive issues, attacking China for engaging in unfair trading practices, manipulating its currency, and building massive fortresses in the South China Sea. He has also engaged Taiwan and repeatedly threatened the future of the one-China policy, which China considers a “prerequisite for the development of relations between China and the rest of the world.”
Trump’s assaults on China’s national interests have raised alarms in Beijing, leading some to advise preparing for confrontation and eventual conflict.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Seoul and Tokyo to reassure longstanding U.S. allies. The decisions to move forward on the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield on South Korean soil and declare the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands covered by the U.S.-Japanese security agreement infuriated Beijing, further raising tensions between the new administration and China.
Xi’s “Chinese Dream,” which calls for the “great revitalization of the Chinese nation,” and Trump’s desire to “make America great again” through “America first” policies may be at odds.
The White House asserts that Trump’s interactions with world leaders “emphasize his priority of American national security.”