Trump v China
President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a "lengthy" and "very cordial" phone conversation Thursday evening, the White House said in a statement, and "President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our 'one China' policy." Trump had irked Beijing by speaking with Taiwan's president on the phone soon after his election, the first direct contact between the U.S. and Taiwanese presidents since 1979, pursuant to U.S. policy of officially recognizing Taiwan as a part of China.
Trump had also said he might use the bedrock policy as a bargaining chip to wrest concessions out of China, telling The Wall Street Journal shortly before his inauguration, for example, that "everything is under negotiation, including 'One China.'" Trump has long criticized China over trade and currency policy, and has continued to do so on Twitter. As a result, Xi and Trump had not spoken since Trump's election in November, and China's silent treatment was getting awkward, The New York Times notes. Trump rolls out the red carpet Friday for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, China's longtime strategic rival.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had affirmed the One China policy and disavowed using Taiwan as a bargaining pawn during his confirmation hearings, was at the White House on Thursday to discuss China. Ivanka Trump, husband Jared Kushner, and their daughter Arabella were also apparently part of a soft push to thaw relations, celebrating the Lunar New Year at the Chinese Embassy in Washington last week; a video of Arabella singing a New Year's song in Mandarin went viral in China.
Finally, the White House announced Wednesday that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had just hand-delivered a New Year's message to China's ambassador wishing "the Chinese people a happy Lantern Festival and prosperous Year of the Rooster." China celebrated the Lunar New Year 11 days ago, "and the lack of a customary New Year's greeting from the U.S. president at that time was noticed here," The Washington Post's Simon Denyer writes from Beijing, adding: "The Lantern Festival will be celebrated on Saturday."