President Trump’s decision to launch a missile strike against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad diverted the world’s attention from the much-anticipated first summit meeting between Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping. But back at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump was giving President Xi exactly what Xi wanted—photo ops, smiles, and the red-carpet treatment—and getting little in return. If anything, the summit reaffirmed for the Chinese leader that his U.S. counterpart talks a big game, but backs down easily.
China has long been a target of Trump’s explosive rhetoric. On the campaign trail, he proffered a scapegoat for his message of American economic decline: “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country,” he said. In the runup to last week’s summit, he talked about how “difficult” his first meeting with Xi would be, even threatening unilateral action against North Korea if China wouldn’t help.This article was originally published in Defense One.