Terrific. Tremendous. An extraordinary few days. Such was Donald Trump’s characterisation of his pomp-filled sojourn in Beijing. Chinese newspapers and academics seconded those emotions on Friday morning, as the US president jetted off on the next leg of his Asian tour.
“China should be happy,” said Chen Daoyin, a Shanghai-based political scientist, calling the trip a diplomatic triumph for President Xi Jinping.
“The leader of the world’s number one power has just made a pilgrimage to him – this is naturally how all Chinese people will see it.”
“Trump has pleasantly surprised many who a year ago were deeply worried about a trade war given his harsh campaign rhetoric,” Chen Weihua, the deputy editor of the China Daily’s US edition, wrote in his appraisal of the billionaire’s “state visit-plus”.
“Trump has also surprised many for his relatively good handling of US-China relations, including forging a close working and personal relationship with President Xi Jinping.”
Only last year, Fudan University scholar Shen Dingli had suggested closing the Chinese embassy in Washington in protest at Trump’s engagement with Taiwan.
After this week’s visit Shen was in a forgiving mood. “More than a success,” the international relations expert said of Trump’s tour.
“Trump behaved moderately [and] respectfully … He showed respect to China’s leader and China’s culture … Xi has made Trump a better president.”
The front-pages of China’s Communist party controlled press were plastered with large and identical photographs of the leaders of the world’s top two economies with headlines commemorating how “comrade Xi” and his capitalist caller had agreed “to give full play to the idea of head-of-state diplomacy”.
An article in the party’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, recounted scenes from a Thursday night farewell banquet at the opulent Mao-era theatre used to dazzle foreign heads of state. “The Great Hall of People’s Golden Hall looked resplendent and magnificent for this great gathering of distinguished guests,” the newspaper raved.