The money quote from Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping in the role of magnanimous panda as he departs Chairman Kim:
“This visit has achieved complete success in reinforcing the traditional friendship between China and North Korea”..
Kim remains hostage, and Xi highlights his captive capabilities in advance of the G20 ‘expanded’ meeting with President Trump in Osaka, Japan. Magnanimous panda thinks he’s created leverage for hostage release negotiations with Trump in exchange for economic and trade concessions… except he hasn’t.
Beijing has fallen into a trap created by a combination of their cultural approach toward geopolitical confrontation and an echo-chamber that does not allow -or consider- warnings from dissenting voices. In essence, it might sound goofy considering the magnitude of the issues at hand, but Beijing doesn’t know President Trump.
One of the reasons for the miscalculation is likely due to Beijing weighing their analysis and strategy based on typical Western reporting similar to THIS ARTICLE in the New York Times.
NYT […] Before Mr. Xi landed in Pyongyang on Thursday, American officials said they expected him to try to secure Mr. Kim’s promise to take steps on nuclear weapons that might appeal to Mr. Trump, in hopes of gaining leverage for China in the trade dispute.
Mr. Xi signaled as much in a televised session with Mr. Kim on his first afternoon in Pyongyang, when he emphasized the need for the North and the United States to revive talks that broke down in Vietnam in February, when Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump last met.
“The international community hopes that North Korea and the United States can talk and for the talks to get results,” Mr. Xi said, sitting across a table from Mr. Kim. (read more)
That Western outlook is what has led to the miscalculation by Chairman Xi.
It would appear that former ‘special envoy’ and Chinese negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He, did have a solid understanding of President Trump. However, after working closely with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Beijing summarily rejected the deal and removed the status of Liu He as a direct representative voice of Chairman Xi.
With that, everything collapsed. Hence, the current status.
The ongoing miscalculation is really quite simple. Thinking that he can leverage the stability of the DPRK (his proxy province) in a trade discussion with President Trump, Chairman Xi has positioned himself as the arbiter of a denuclearized North Korea. However, in doing so Xi has taken public ownership of any future DPRK hostilities.
China has always held control over North Korea as a hedge against Western interests; however, Beijing has always strategically denied their influence. This dynamic is the center of the issue. This is what President Trump needed to change.
From the perspective of President Trump engaging with Chairman Xi, the removal of the curtain hiding the control is just as valuable as removal of the control itself.
A withdrawal by China (hostage released), or the public appearance of the control by China (captive admission) serves the same purpose. The DPRK cannot mount hostile action. Chairman Xi now owns the problem of any North Korean hostilities.
That connection was all President Trump needed strategically in order to confront China and remove the worry of hostile actions coordinated by Beijing through Chairman Kim.
Chairman Xi walks into the G20 to negotiate with President Trump, but selling influence over the DPRK to gain a better trade outcome no longer has value.
SCMP – […] In a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before returning to Beijing, Xi also said China was determined to support the country’s new “strategic path”, Chinese state-run newspaper People’s Daily reported.
“This visit … has achieved complete success in reinforcing the traditional friendship between China and North Korea,” Xi was quoted as saying.
“It has laid down the direction of future development of China-North Korean relations in the new era, and also shown to the outside world the firm determination of China and North Korea in achieving a political resolution to the Korean peninsula problem and delivering long-lasting peace in the region.”
North Korea’s state media quoted Kim as emphasising Beijing’s rock solid relationship with Pyongyang. According to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim told Xi that his visit was “decisive” in showing the unchanging friendship between the two countries to the world. (read more)
With the DPRK retaliatory threat removed; and with Chairman Xi now owning any hostile action from inside North Korea; President Trump can now take more aggressive action toward China on global trade and economic influence.
The magnanimous panda has walked into a geopolitical trap. President Trump now controls the bamboo forest….