Trump on magazine cover Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump-Xi Strategic Face-Off

At the summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, each leader will try to extract concessions from the other on issues such as trade, North Korea's nuclear program, and the South China Sea. But whether Trump realizes it or not, Xi is already holding all the cards.

SINGAPORE – In ancient times, Chinese emperors never traveled to another country to meet its new ruler. Rather, that ruler, or his envoy, would visit China’s imperial capital to request investiture from the Son of Heaven.

The fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping has traveled thousands of miles to meet US President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, rather than receiving Trump in the Forbidden City, suggests that China recognizes its own status as a lesser power vis-à-vis the United States.

But that does not mean that Xi considers this status to be permanent. On the contrary, he might be anticipating that the two countries’ strategic standing will change very quickly if the US does not do more to preserve its global primacy.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/wd6fmy2;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.