BEIJING: China’s President Xi Jinping will travel to Florida to meet US President Donald Trump April 6 to 7, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Thursday.
The meeting will take place at Trump’s resort, Mar-a-Lago, Lu told reporters at a regular press briefing.
The visit will take place after a rocky start to the US-China relationship under Trump, who has repeatedly blasted Beijing for its trade policies and reluctance to bring pressure on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programmes.
A successful meeting could be crucial in setting the tone for the relationship between the world’s two largest economies in coming years.
Just weeks ago the summit seemed a distant possibility after Trump infuriated Beijing with suggestions he might break from the US’s long-standing One China Policy.
But in a conciliatory phone call in mid-February, Trump walked back controversial comments on Taiwan, creating an opening for Washington and Beijing to discuss a meeting.
The call was quickly followed by successive visits by China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi to Washington and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Beijing, where the details of the meetings were reportedly hammered out.
Xi would be the second world leader since Trump took office to visit Mar-a-Lago, which Trump has dubbed the “Winter White House.”
The resort’s casual nature will allow Trump to receive the Chinese leader without the full pomp and circumstance of a state visit.
Diplomatic sources in Beijing told AFP that the meetings will primarily focus on giving the two leaders an opportunity to get to know each other, likely reserving tough issues for future talks.
“The summit could well be a peaceful combination of a strategic kumbaya and economic gift giving, before storms erupt later over trade, regional hotspots, and human resources-issues,” according to Douglas Paal, Asia Director, at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The US president hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the estate in February in a meeting billed as an opportunity to bond over rounds of golf in an environment conducive to building the kinds of personal relationships that Trump is said to view as important.
Xi, however, is unlikely to join Trump on the links.
China’s ruling Communist party frowns on golf as a bourgeois luxury and has taken steps to crack down on the courses in China, which it associates with corruption.