Trump may want to ask nicely. The relative standing between these leaders has shifted considerably since their last meeting in April. China’s shift from victim to villain in the global opiate crisis is a curiosity, for sure, but it also underscores the Middle Kingdom’s burgeoning clout in economic and world affairs, where it shamelessly puts domestic economic priorities above universal values such as human-rights, democracy and free speech.
China’s ascendancy is stark and only set to grow. At the Congress, Xi proclaimed a “new era” when China “will take center stage in the world.” His Belt and Road Initiative — a trade and infrastructure network tracing the ancient Silk Road — will boost Beijing’s influence beyond its borders just as Trump’s questioning of bedrock principles such as free trade, and toadying to authoritarian regimes, is diminishing Washington’s. Trump might talk tough, but don’t expect Xi to tremble.