Bromance in Beijing

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Xi and Trump get along famously, but to what mutual purpose?

China rolled out the best of Middle Kingdom hospitality for Donald Trump this week, while the U.S. President returned the flattery by gushing about his “chemistry” with President Xi Jinping and calling him “a very special man.” The question is what will come of this bonhomie, especially from China on North Korea.

China knows how to entertain a democratic leader with flattery and symbolism, and Mr. Xi even arranged tea in the Forbidden City for the U.S. President, the first foreign leader to be given that privilege. Mr. Trump more than even most U.S. Presidents puts stock in appearances of respect, and the Chinese know it.

Mr. Trump’s praise for Mr. Xi can be seen as a similar calculation. He knows Mr. Xi wants China to be seen as an equal to America on the world stage, and Mr. Trump is trying to convince Mr. Xi to cooperate in stopping North Korea’s nuclear program. As a “deal-maker,” Mr. Trump also prizes his ability to size up a negotiating partner.

Not to disdain chemistry, but it isn’t clear the two sides made any diplomatic breakthroughs. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressed the positive in his post-meeting presser, saying “there is no disagreement on North Korea.” He repeated Chinese assurances that “they will not accept a North Korea with nuclear weapons,” adding “there’s no space between both of our objectives.”

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