The odd couple that might (just) hit it off

Firm friends: President Xi expects Trump’s visit to be “wonderful and successful”. © Getty

Could Donald Trump and Xi Jinping strike up a special relationship? President Trump begins his first state visit to China today, and tough talks on trade and North Korea are expected.

Today the two most powerful men in the world will meet. President Trump and President Xi control the two richest nations on Earth, and the decisions they make will affect billions of lives.

It is also a year since Trump became US President. So far he has struggled to impose some of his key policies at home. And the meeting is a chance for him to make a big impact abroad.

But some think that differences between Trump and Xi could hamper progress. In his youth Xi spent seven years working on a farm and living in a cave. Trump inherited a multi-million dollar empire from his father and has lived in a gold-plated penthouse, complete with bronze statues and gold-rimmed candy bowls.

They are also political polar-opposites. Xi almost never uses the word “I” in speeches, presenting himself as the embodiment of the Communist Party — collectively striving for the “success of socialism”. By contrast, Trump fuses the presidency with his personal brand. His rallies are decked with huge “Trump” posters, and his followers can buy Trump-shaped figurines.

But there are also intriguing similarities. Both are ruthless. Xi has purged hundreds of officials, and Trump has terminated many Washington careers. Both also have big visions for their countries. Trump promises to reignite the American Dream with his refrain “Make America great again,” while Xi has promised his own “China Dream” — vowing a new era of power overseas.

There are signs that an era of collaboration could be on the horizon. China’s US ambassador Cui Tiankai wrote of the need for “win-win scenarios for China and our partners, particularly the USA”. And Trump has revered Xi as a “king”.

A US-China special relationship would profoundly change the world. Some think that they could team up to wipe out Kim Jong-un, and that more free trade could spread prosperity to millions.

But is this really possible?

Howdy partner

“Xi wants to be number one,” say some. China continues to maintain a trade deficit with the USA, which Trump rightly states is “killing” American jobs. China continues to build military bases in the South China Sea, risking direct military confrontation with America. And China continues to flex its growing financial muscle, recently establishing a rival to the US-based World Bank. Xi wants one thing: world domination.

“Opposites attract,” counter others. And Trump and Xi have crucial similarities. Both want to neutralise North Korea, and both want prosperity for their countries. Cooperation could satisfy both aims. For example, Trump’s promise to revive heavy industries like steel production could be met by securing Chinese investment rather than banning Chinese imports. Cooperation is the key.

You Decide

  1. What produces better results: collaboration or competition?
  2. Will Trump and Xi develop a special relationship?


  1. How many objects are there in your classroom which are made in China? What types of objects are they? When you go home see how many things you can find that are made in China. Why do you think we use so many items that China manufactures?
  2. Using the links in Become An Expert, watch the video from Vox and read the article by Martin Wolf. Once you have understood each piece, give yourself ten minutes to write a paragraph answering the following question: “How can international trade be seen as collaborative?” Don’t worry about using complicated technical words, and try to express you ideas as simply as possible.

Some People Say...

“I beat the people from China. I win against China. You can win against China if you're smart.”

Donald Trump

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Chinese government has promised Trump a “state visit-plus”. He will visit the Great Hall of the People and the ancient Forbidden City. Xi Jinping went to America in April, joining Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Following the visit Trump said that he had “developed a friendship” with the Chinese president.
What do we not know?
We do not know exactly what Trump and Xi will discuss during the visit. However, it is expected that Trump will try to tackle the trade deficit. Based on the business entourage that is travelling with him, some think Trump will seek Chinese investment specifically in American energy and farm products.

Word Watch

According to the World Bank, the US GDP in 2016 was $18.5 trillion, while China’s was $11.2 trillion.
His repeal of Obamacare did not have enough support to be taken to a vote in the Senate. And very little progress has been made on the border wall with Mexico.
A BBC News study found that over 170 ministers and high ranking officials have been sacked under Xi, accused of various levels of corruption. (See Become An Expert.)
Among others, James Comey, the FBI director, and Sally Yates, the acting attorney-general, were fired by the president. Many more have resigned, including Sean Spicer, his press secretary, Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, and Michael Flynn, the national security adviser.
Trade deficit
In 2016 the the value of China’s exports to America was $347 billion more than America’s exports to China.
South China Sea
An estimated $5 trillion trade passes through the South China Sea every year and several countries want the area to remain international waters. Some argue that China’s development in the region goes against international law.


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