Chinese Vice Premier Liu He visited the United States from January 13 to 15. White House National Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow said in an interview with Fox News on January 10, 2020 that the signing ceremony of the first phase of the US-China trade agreement will be held at the White House on January 15 as planned . Kudlow said: “The first phase of the agreement will be signed on Wednesday (15th) and there will be a wonderful ceremony. We will have dinner the night before and we will have lunch later. President Donald Trump will Deputy Prime Minister Liu He signed the agreement together. “
From Kudlow’s words, the dinner and luncheon, plus Trump’s signature with Liu He, the ceremony of signing the first phase of the agreement will be very grand.
However, what is confusing is that Trump and Liu He signed the agreement, which is not equivalent from a diplomatic point of view. The signing of an agreement between Liu He and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is a reciprocal arrangement. Why was the first phase of the China-US agreement not signed by Xi Jinping and Trump? Why didn’t Xi Jinping personally sign an agreement with Trump?
Earlier, China and the United States signed the first phase of the agreement during the APEC Leaders Summit in Chile in November 2019. Xi Jinping met with Trump and witnessed the signing. But with the cancellation of the APEC summit in Chile that year, when and where China and the US signed the first phase of the agreement became very uncertain.
Lighthizer said on December 13, 2019 that the two parties plan to sign the trade agreement in the United States in the first week of January 2020, signed by ministerial officials. But White House trade adviser Peter Navarro insisted that the agreement would be signed by the two heads of state. On December 24, 2019, Trump also said that the first phase of the US-China agreement has been completed, and he and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold a signing ceremony.
Lighthizer said that China and the United States will sign in the first week of January 2020, but it has not been realized. Trump said he and Xi Jinping had not signed a signing ceremony. No one thought that it was Trump and Liu He who signed the first phase of the agreement, and it was carried out on the premise that Liu He was not crowned as Xi Jinping’s special envoy.
Judging from the US premise that Trump has signed an agreement with Xi Jinping, it is not that China and the United States have not discussed the possibility of Xi Jinping signing the agreement, and the US must have invited Xi Jinping to sign the agreement. But in the end, the Chinese side decided that Xi Jinping would not show up and Liu He would sign the agreement.
Why is there such an unusual arrangement?
As far as China-US trade talks are concerned, the possibility of the U.S. being indifferent is very high, and there have been many previous incidents. Prior to May 2018 the first China-US trade reached a consensus, by the Liu He came forward to sign. Therefore, Xi Jinping’s failure to show up is not accidental.
The first phase of the China-US agreement after December 13, 2019 has been declared the official negotiations. Trump has pledged his words, and even different positions within the United States have many cases, Trump may have been used to being criticized by the media and public shame. But China is unlikely to arrange for leaders to participate in such uncertain matters.
Maintaining national authority is the basic requirement of the Chinese people for Chinese officials, and making responsible decisions is the foundation of China as a big country in the international community. Xi Jinping has not personally signed an agreement with Trump, is cautious diplomatic arrangements.
Perhaps from the beginning, China did not consider this an agreement that Xi Jinping must come forward to sign. During the negotiation process, no one knows what kind of consensus will be reached. If China and the United States really reach a historic agreement, Xi Jinping will sign it. From the selection stage of China-US economic and trade disputes to resolve the China-US perspective, components of the first phase of the agreement is not so heavy, perhaps this is a temporary safeguard stability protocol during the US presidential election.
Xi Jinping not come forward, even Liu He even Xi Jinping envoy titles are not, this release is a signal that the agreement does not think China can resolve trade issues between China and the US, China is not optimistic assessment of the future of China-US relations, the agreement only in can the United States began to control the tube dispute.
From the perspective of China’s diplomatic practice, most of the agreements signed by the Chinese President are important consensus, declarations, and treaties. They are documents that involve landmark changes in bilateral relations, such as the China-US communique and China-Japanese political documents. Even if Xi Jinping had met with Trump, the first phase of the China-US agreement, such as a specific transactional agreement, should only be witnessed and not signed by himself.
Xi Jinping has a plan to meet Trump at a multilateral conference venue. If China and the United States can reach an agreement, it will not be inevitable to witness the signing of the agreement at the multilateral conference. However, with the cancellation of the APEC Chile Summit, Xi Jinping apparently has no special itinerary related to this. Xi Jinping will not deliberately find time and place to meet with Trump in order to sign the agreement, let alone visit the United States.
The question of whether Xi Jinping signed an agreement with Trump was discussed because the United States raised this issue. Trump and he always wanted to be signed by Xi Jinping. Even if Xi Jinping refuses to sign with Trump, Trump has to sign Liu He himself. This shows that Trump needs a show too, a stage, and a ceremony to prove his achievements.
Therefore, the fact is not that “Xi Jinping does not sign with Trump personally”, but that Trump must show up at the signing ceremony himself, which leads to the question “Why Xi Jinping did not sign an agreement with Trump.”