President Donald Trump on Tuesday asked the world to “look at China with an open mind” and “not let the past cloud the future” after the country’s new president issued a stern warning that Beijing is not going to change.
“We will work together with the leaders of the other two major economies to solve issues,” Trump told a joint news conference with the leader of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, in Beijing.
“We will not let that cloud the success of our relationship.”
Trump’s comments came a day after Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters that “the president has said very strongly that he’s not going into China and he’s very much in favor of China remaining a free and independent nation.”
The comments, which Trump said were not about Taiwan, came as the US faces its first economic sanctions in decades, which come after China took a $1.6 billion bailout last week.
Trump has sought to portray the new administration as a defender of free trade, saying in a tweet that he has spoken with leaders of Mexico and Canada and is “very impressed with their strong economic relationship with the United States.”
Trump has also been outspoken on Twitter about China’s economic policies, calling the country “the most corrupt, predatory, and abusive nation on Earth.”
The White House declined to comment on Cohn’s comments, saying that he was speaking on behalf of the president and that he “has not spoken to the president.”
The administration’s stance on China has been a topic of debate for several weeks, with Trump often accusing Beijing of manipulating the currency markets to push up the value of its currency to the detriment of the US economy.
The president has frequently criticized China for its “one-sided” trade deals, which he argues have led to a loss of US jobs and have helped China become the world’s most powerful economy.
In his first major foreign trip as president, Trump also met with leaders from more than 20 countries, including India and Pakistan, and hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping.