A New Normal


Rapid Changes In The World
It is hard to believe that Xi Jingping and Donald Trump met as recently as April 6-7. The world has changed so much in the last couple of weeks that few could recognize it from what it was the week before the Xi-Trump meeting. Instead of a warming of US relations with Russia, particularly with cooperation in the Middle East, the two countries plunged headlong into a reheated Cold War. With the whole world watching nervously over the imminent start of a war on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea postponed its nuclear test, while the US floated disinformation about the movements of its aircraft carriers to the region.

Phone Conversations
After the meeting in Florida, Xi and Trump already had two phone conversations with each other. It seems that the two might have agreed to talk P-to-P at the frequency of every couple of weeks. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told the press after this morning phone call that future regular phone communication between the two leaders “should not be a surprise to anyone”. Huh? Is that what you call a New Normal?

One-on-one For Three Hours
One of the tidbits that became known about the Florida summit is that Donald Trump spent three hours alone with Xi (each with an interpreter, although Xi could have spoken in English at times). They had to postpone lunch, forego a joint press conference, delay the flight departure time, and still not had enough of each other. Is that possible? Can one really spend that much time with Donald Trump one-on-one without … ? And had Trump spent so much time with someone, and actually did far more listening than talking, ever, in his entire life?

If you go back to my post of April 8, 2017 about the possible Chinese script planned for the meeting, you would get a general drift of what might have transpired during those actual three hours of one-on-one discussions. One of the topics Donald mentioned was that he learnt about the 2,000-year history between China and Korea from Xi. I am sure Xi must have also explained in detail what had happened in the complex multinational interactions on the Peninsula since the Korean War, which led to Donald to acknowledge that the Korea situation is far more complex than he had thought. Besides that, it would be safe to assume that Trump asked Xi a lot of questions about the world and its major players today, and I am sure Xi’s answers and explanations would constitute a treasured tutorial. It appears that Donald had found his gem. He truly wants this partnership.

Roadmap Is Not On Auto-Pilot
Are we to assume that all is well? At least the Korean Peninsula crisis has been held in temporary abeyance. But that will change with the next freaky move by one of the parties, which is bound to happen. The fact that the US and China are trying to act in concert is reducing the risk of total chaos, but there is an added element of uncertainty with the reactions of other parties-in-interest, namely, Japan, South Korea and Russia (the latest news is that the Russians are now rapidly supplying North Korea with armaments). North Korea will not abandon its nuclear testing. It is just a matter of the timing they will choose. So the kettles are still on an active stove, just not boiling over at the moment. Meanwhile, China is working hard on a process toward a peaceful resolution, and America is holding its horses.

From the official release on this morning’s conversation between Xi and Trump, one can surmise that the Dialogue process under the four-pillared mechanism does not appear to have gained much progress after Florida. The American side has no staff, no team, and therefore no policy yet. The Roadmap is not one of those Artificial Intelligence things. It requires human interaction and professional people doing diligent homework. No pain, no gain. It does not run on auto-pilot, unfortunately.


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