In an attempt to influence the Trump administration’s foreign policy, the Chinese are going straight to the top.
Bypassing more traditional diplomatic channels, China is cozying up to President Trump’s immediate family.
Although Trump broke with convention by not sending a personal Chinese New Year’s greeting, Ivanka Trump and her daughter, Arabella, visited the Chinese Embassy in Washington for a Lunar New Year celebration on February 1. Ivanka later posted a video of Arabella singing a song in Mandarin which helped quell criticism of Trump’s move.
Ivanka’s visit was lauded in China’s press, and followed a behind-the-scenes meeting between Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai and Jared Kushner, her husband and a top presidential adviser. A White House official noted that Kushner and Cui have had a positive ongoing dialogue, yet declined to comment further since their meetings were private.
By cultivating relationships with Trump’s immediate family, China is seeking to avoid a trade war or military conflict after the president indicated a willingness to challenge Beijing’s red lines on Taiwan and the South China Sea.
China implemented a similar strategy with the Bush family, according to Dennis Wilder, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council during the last Bush administration and a China military analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency.
“I predict very direct communication from the White House to Zhongnanhai,” Wilder said, referring to the seat of the central government in Beijing. Ivanka’s embassy visit pleased the Chinese leadership “because it advanced the personal connection to President Trump and his family.”
The Chinese media’s positive reaction to Ivanka’s New Year’s visit marked a turn from widespread defensive remarks in response to previous statements by Trump. According to The Global Times, a party-run newspaper known for its nationalist sentiments, Ivanka helped balance her father’s “harsh posture” and the appearance “could be invigorating to the China-U.S. relationship.”
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