The most notable aspect amid President Trump’s granddaughter Arabella delivering a folk song in native Mandarin wasn’t the song itself, it was the response from Madame Peng Liyaun, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping. If you haven’t watched the video, you should.
The song was shared moments after President Trump delivered these remarks during a state dinner presented by President Xi and Madame Peng to honor the visit of President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump:
[…] “This moment in history presents both our nations with an incredible opportunity to advance peace and prosperity alongside other nations all around the world. In the words of a Chinese proverb, “We must carry forward the cause and forge ahead into the future.” I am confident that we can realize this wonderful vision.
[…] It is my hope that the proud spirits of the American and Chinese people will inspire our efforts to achieve a more just, secure, and peaceful world, a future worthy of the sacrifices of our ancestors, and the dreams of our children.
In a moment, we will view a video of my granddaughter, Arabella, reciting traditional Chinese songs and poetry about your country’s serene beauty and treasured customs. Our children so often remind us of our shared humanity and true dignity.” (link)
Arabella began her video by saying: “Hello, Grandpa Xi. Hello, Grandma Peng”, and then began to sing a story in Mandarin very familiar to the Chinese people. Exceptionally familiar to Madame Peng Liyaun who, along with being the wife of President Xi, was a folk singer and popular cultural icon herself.
[Video 14:20 – Prompted, Just Hit Play]
Coming out of this dinner U.S. media spun a narrative that President Trump acquiesced in his tone toward President Xi; and Trump’s opposition framed a narrative of comparative weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Again, watch that video and look at the response from Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyaun. Now contrast that relationship, that visible connection, against the words both grandfathers delivered toward each other. Then evaluate and overlap the possibilities of hostile action -nuclear ambition- from North Korea.
What you immediately notice is there is an element there that extends beyond transactional geopolitical consequence, and into the realm of the personal. President Trump has drawn the panda into the clearing within the bamboo forest. That personal space is where the discussion of terms holds the greatest consequence.
There’s a reason Little Rocket Man has been quiet.
The level of diplomatic and personal respect displayed by President Trump toward the Chinese people and their leader Xi Jinping was pitch perfect.
Those who follow China closely will note a cultural reality that China believes in victory, in all things, as part of their general perspective. Conquest and winning it is in their DNA.
Traditionally and historically if it does not benefit China, it simply is not done. That’s the mindset and approach most outside China fail to understand. The European and American framework of mutually beneficial outcomes does not work in China. It is a zero-sum outlook. However, if an action does benefit China it will most certainly be done; that too is the reality. Therefore negotiation with China involves requests for action, that when taken, also derive the Chinese a benefit.
President Trump established the benefit side of the equation early on in his administration. The benefit is favorable trade outcomes and the subsequent economics. The request toward achieving that outcome is for Xi Jinping to eliminate the threat that is North Korea.
If you have followed the foreign policy pattern of President Trump you immediately recognize he does not restrain himself to DC political customs or DC political norms. Indeed as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi optimistically noted, President Trump can accomplish many things because he brings a unique perspective to the world of policy and diplomatic engagement. Later al-Sisi repeated: “He Can Do The Impossible“.
Additionally since we originally outlined the likely scenario for a restart of the ‘six party talks‘ (China, South Korea, Russia, Japan and the U.S.), on August 13th, there was visible activity providing further evidence toward that end.
•Japan (Shinzo Abe) has stated they have “great confidence” in President Trump’s Asian national security approach. •South Korea (President Moon Jae-in) stated they are “confident there will not be war again on the Korean peninsular“; •and they are willing to send a special envoy to North Korea to begin talks. •In addition, China quietly removed the 71-year-old veteran diplomat, Wu Dawei, from the position of negotiator toward the DPRK, and replaced him with 58-year-old Kong Xuanyou. Kong is a long time Chinese diplomat in charge of Asian affairs and he speaks Korean.
All of this was generally under-reported and took place months before President Trump arrived in Asia; the U.S. media was busy pushing Charlottesville narratives. More importantly this quiet activity took place while President Trump directed USTR Lighthizer to begin a section 301 trade investigation into China.
President Trump was ramping up the economic pressure on Chinese President Xi Jinping, but more specifically Lighthizer’s action was targeting Beijing’s communist old guard who control both their economy and the DPRK behavior ahead of the communist congress.
Remember, China takes no action that does not benefit China:
Yesterday in a release from the State Department:
Special Representative for North Korea Policy Ambassador Joseph Yun will travel to Seoul and Jeju from November 14-17 for meetings with the R.O.K. government. Special Representative Yun will also to participate in the Northeast Asia Platform for Peace and Cooperation Conference and the United Nations Conference on Disarmament.
Now we watch closely for the appearance of Kong Xuanyou. After returning from the ASEAN summit, that will be the strongest indication that post-Trump-visit President Xi has won the support of Beijing and will engage in a comprehensive plan toward Kim Jong-un.
There are those who would criticize such a strategy; using economics to achieve national security. Those voices would prefer China be confronted on the economic issues regardless of North Korea. However, if you look at the larger plan it’s not an either/or issue.
Under the current strategy visible from President Trump, the only question is the degree of confrontation. Trump has already established the baseline in the trade confrontation; there will be actual economic loss to the Chinese. The question, the negotiation, is entirely over the amount.
U.S. taxpayers are either going to spend hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions, to deal with the hostile action of North Korea…. at this point, it’s almost a sunk cost. Or, we could spend a fraction of that money via a favorable trade outcome to the Chinese in exchange for them dealing with the issue.
Against the visible execution of the Trump Doctrine, in combination with the relationship side of this equation he has established, there’s almost no possibility of the U.S. entering a military confrontation with North Korea now.