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Xi-Trump meeting may avert the worst scenario | Updated: 2019-06-23 18:30

With Russian President Vladimir Putin, he has "opened up a new era for China-Russia relations".

With Democratic People's Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong-un, he has "injected new dynamism for China-DPRK relations in a new era".

When President Xi Jinping meets with his US counterpart on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, later this week, what new era will they maneuver for the world's two largest economies?

Precisely how the planned one-on-one meeting will play out, and what kind of an agreement, if any, may be announced is hard to foretell. But no doubt the two leaders will try hard to work something out.

Following the latest telephone conversation between the two leaders, this is the least that may be expected.

It would be wonderful if the two countries' negotiating teams could jointly submit specific deliverables to denote shared intent. But for such a meeting at such a point, course-setting is probably more important than any specifics.

Under this US administration, China and the United States have been officially defined as "strategic competitors". But that does not mean the present tit-for-tat, which is obviously spilling from trade into other aspects of the relationship, is the sole option for the two.

Of course, not everyone in Washington buys Beijing's remarks — be they about trade or Chinese strategic purposes at large. But that does not mean the countries have to confront each other.

The danger of the current trade standoff hijacking and poisoning overall bilateral ties is no longer a potential, but an unfolding reality. Should the ongoing escalation and spillover be allowed to continue, a freezing of relations might be the least of the anticipated worst-case scenarios.

Not a few who call the shots in Washington swear by "maximum pressure". So, just as negotiators on both sides prepare for a new round of talks, the US Department of Commerce just added more Chinese enterprises and institutions to its national security "entity list" that bars them from buying US parts and components without government approval.

Yet "maximum pressure" has proved invalid in getting Pyongyang and Teheran to bow to Washington's will, so why is it expected to work on Beijing? China's enormous home market, tremendous regional development imbalance, not to mention its economic resilience and public endurance and unique approach to governance, are only some of the factors that offset external pressures.

If he can call off a reportedly imminent strike on Iran in the last minute, if he can display unusual patience with Pyongyang after less than fruitful talks, the US president may find it more rewarding if he takes advantage of the upcoming meeting with Xi and puts trade negotiations back on track.

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