Xi’s comment during a phone call with Trump on Monday followed several assertive U.S. moves in Asia, including a naval patrol past a Chinese-controlled islet a day earlier. The American president called in part to advance talks on curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, which have progressed little since Xi’s sunny April visit to Trump’s Florida resort.
“Ties are also affected by some negative elements, and the Chinese side has already expressed our stance to the U.S.,” Xi told Trump, according to state broadcaster China Central Television. “China and the U.S. should tightly grasp the overall direction of development based on the consensus we reached at Mar-a-Lago.”
The remarks were Xi’s first acknowledgment of rekindled tensions between the world’s two largest economies ahead of an expected meeting at the Group of 20 summit that begins Friday in Hamburg, Germany. Besides Trump’s frustration with China’s contribution to reining in Kim Jong Un -- expressed in a tweet last month -- members of his administration have also renewed criticism of the country while returning to a harder line on trade.
The risk is that Trump rethinks his early detente with Xi and advances a punitive approach similar to what he advocated during the campaign. Moves such as levying tariffs or boosting ties with Taiwan could prompt retaliation from China, especially as Xi prepares for a key Communist Party party reshuffle.