With lavish pageantry and an uncharacteristic personal flourish, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday rolled out a red carpet welcome for US President Donald Trump at the Forbidden City, the ancient home of China’s emperors.
While North Korea and trade are set to dominate the formal part of the visit, which ends on Friday, China has been keen to show the importance it puts on Mr Trump’s visit, the first by a foreign leader since the end of a key Communist Party congress last month where Mr Xi cemented his power.
Mr Trump and his wife Melania were whisked from Beijing airport — where they were met by China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, a key player in the outreach to Mr Trump since he won election a year ago — straight to the Forbidden City.
Chatting over cups of tea, Mr Trump showed Mr Xi a video of his granddaughter Arabella Kushner singing in Mandarin and reciting classical Chinese poetry, prompting Mr Xi to compliment her performance as worthy of an “A+”, Chinese state media said. Mr Xi said he hoped Arabella would visit China soon, noting that she was already a “child star” in China, the official Xinhua news agency said.
In another break from precedent, Mr Xi himself gave the Trumps a tour of the imperial treasures of the Forbidden City, a Unesco World Heritage site cleared of tourists for the day, before the two first couples watched Chinese opera and an acrobatic display. “That’s something!” Mr Trump said after the show, as he and Xi walked away. “We’re having a great time.” China had widely been expected to pull out all the stops for Mr Trump, who has pressed it to do more to control its neighbour North Korea, and resolve a yawning trade gap with the United States. The ceremony on Mr Trump’s arrival at Beijing’s airport on Wednesday was also more elaborate than usual.