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diplomacy

Is Trump's China letter a friendly overture or a snub?

President Trump sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, thanking his Chinese counterpart for his inaugural congratulations and wishing Xi well on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. "President Trump stated that he looks forward to working with President Xi to develop a constructive relationship that benefits both the United States and China," the White House said.

Despite the note's apparently friendly tone, it presents an obvious contrast to the phone calls Trump has made to other world leaders since he took office. Though Trump did speak with Xi by phone in November, the letter format could be interpreted as a snub to China, which the president has often targeted for aggressive economic critique.

Still, if rudeness was intended, China has refused to dignify it with a response. "We highly appreciate President Trump's holiday greetings to President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people," said Lu Kang, a representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Lu dismissed a question about whether there is an underlying insult in the letter format: "This kind of remark is meaningless."