HULLABALOO--Here's your president in China, completely reversing everything he's ever said before and sounding like Chauncey Gardner:
"Our meeting this morning was excellent discussing North Korea," Trump said, seated across from Xi in the Great Hall of the People. "I do believe there's a solution to that, as you do."
Pomp and pageantry greet Trump ahead of talks with Xi
Looking Xi in the eye, Trump also acknowledged what he has called a greatly unfair trade relationship that has hurt American workers and businesses.
"We've gotten so far behind with China," the president said. "I have great respect for you on that because you represent China ... but we'll make it fair, and it will be tremendous for both of us."
Despite the warm words, there has been little indication of any substantive breakthrough on either front ahead of the summit here in Beijing.
But Trump seems to be banking on a sharply different tone toward China -- and warmer personal relationship with Xi -- to produce outcomes that frustrated his predecessor for eight years.
"My feeling toward you is an incredibly warm one. ... There is great chemistry," Trump told his host. "And it is a very very great honor to be with you."
He added, "We have a capacity to solve world problems for many many years to come," he said. "I believe we can solve almost of all of them –- probably all of them."
Who can blame a country for being able taking advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens?" Trump said as Xi watched on from a few feet away. Nervous laughter rippled through the crowd of Chinese and American business executives, whose firms are inking new deals here in a spectacle meant to demonstrate Trump's negotiating prowess.
"I give China great credit," he added. "In actuality, I do blame past administrations for allowing this trade deficit to take place and grow."
It was a remarkable show of deference to Xi, who emerged from last month's Communist Party Congress the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation. And while US officials downplayed the significance of the remark, it nevertheless laid bare the lengths to which Trump is prioritizing his personal chemistry with his counterparts here as he seeks to advance an agenda of isolating North Korea and brokering new trade deals.
Trump's praise for his Chinese counterpart wasn't limited to the remarks at the signing ceremony for the $250 billion in US-Chinese business deals. At the top of a bilateral meeting, the accolades dripped from Trump's mouth as he expressed his gratitude for the welcome mat Xi had laid out.
They had an "absolutely terrific" dinner. It was a "very, very great honor" to be together. The military display was "magnificent." And their relationship? "A great one."
Trump did not avoid pointing out China's "unfair trade practices" and its "theft of intellectual property," but his conclusion that the imbalance in the US-Chinese trade relationship was the fault of his predecessors ignored the role of China's system of state-run enterprises and limiting market access policies.
Trump's discussions with Xi yielded no immediate signs that the structural changes needed to rebalance the relationship were coming.
"There was a little bit of tongue in cheek in that characterization, but there was also a lot of truth to it," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in explaining Trump's remark. "I think what the President was just reflecting on is, look, we are where we are because previous administrations, whether through benign neglect -- which is my own characterization of it -- or for whatever reasons allowed this to happen."
Trump's absolution of Chinese blame on trade matters, a day after the anniversary of his election, were a stunning statement from the man who vilified China at every turn during the presidential campaign, accusing the country of having "raped" the US and branding it as an "economic enemy."
They have his number. Put on a big show and treat him like he's an Emperor and he'll crumble at their feet. And he is happy to blame American presidents before him for whatever issues exist between the two countries which has to make adversaries of the United States laugh and laugh.
It's always a delicate relationship but in the hands of this mental child we'll just have to hope that he doesn't screw things up so badly that we can't ever come back to some sort of equilibrium.
And no, there will be no mention of China's human rights policies. Trump envies them. He wishes he could do that too.