Trump says he doesn’t blame China for taking ‘advantage’ of U.S.

BEIJING — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he does not blame China for its economic success at the expense of the United States, what he called a "one sided" trade relationship.

"I don’t blame China," he said at a business event joined by Chinese President Xi Jinping. "After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit."

The comments are a remarkable shift in tone by Trump, who campaigned on a hard-line promise to take China to task over its trade practices with the United States only to soften his language toward Beijing as president.

Photos of President Trump in China

21 PHOTOS
President Trump, Melania Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping
See Gallery
President Trump, Melania Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping
U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Xi Jinping, China's president, greet attendees waving American and Chinese national flags during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. The White House expects to announce upwards of $250 billion in business deals in China this week, an administration official said -- exactly the sort of U.S. jobs-based diplomacy that Trump�likes to deliver when traveling abroad. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania visit the Forbidden City with China� President Xi Jinping and China� First Lady Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania visit the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping leave after an opera performance at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania enjoy an opera performance with China's President Xi Jinping at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania visit the Forbidden City with China's President Xi Jinping and China's First Lady Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump looks at first lady Melania Trump next to Chinese President Xi Jinping as they tour the Conservation Scientific Laboratory of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania visit the Forbidden City with China?s President Xi Jinping and China?s First Lady Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping tour the Conservation Scientific Laboratory of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China November 8, 2017. Looking on is Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan at left and U.S. first lady Melania Trump at right. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania visit the Forbidden City with China's President Xi Jinping and China's First Lady Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania and China's President Xi Jinping pose with opera performers at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania visit the Forbidden City with China's President Xi Jinping and China's First Lady Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US President Donald Trump tours the Conservation Scientific Laboratory of the Forbidden City in Beijing on November 8, 2017. US President Donald Trump toured the Forbidden City with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on November 8 as he began the crucial leg of an Asian tour intended to build a global front against North Korea's nuclear threats. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Andy Wong (Photo credit should read ANDY WONG/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive on Air Force One in Beijing on November 8, 2017. US President Donald Trump arrived in Beijing on November 8 for the critical leg of his Asia tour to drum up an uncompromising, global front against the nuclear weapons ambitions of the 'cruel dictatorship' in North Korea. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / THOMAS PETER (Photo credit should read THOMAS PETER/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony at the Great hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Xi Jinping, China's president, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump look on during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. The White House expects to announce upwards of $250 billion in business deals in China this week, an administration official said -- exactly the sort of U.S. jobs-based diplomacy that Trump�likes to deliver when traveling abroad. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Xi Jinping, China's president, left, gestures while standing next to U.S. President Donald Trump, during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. The White House expects to announce upwards of $250 billion in business deals in China this week, an administration official said -- exactly the sort of U.S. jobs-based diplomacy that Trump�likes to deliver when traveling abroad. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 09: The convoy of US President Donald Trump makes its way through Tiananmen Square before the welcome ceremony on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China. At the invitation of Chineses President Xi Jinping, U.S President Donald Trump is to pay a state visit to China from November 8 to 10. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"I think what [Trump is] saying is that China is pursuing its own national interests," U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad told reporters, including NBC News, before Trump and Xi made joint remarks. "You can’t blame any country for doing that. We just have to do a better job of doing that for the United States."

Later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump's comments were "a little bit of tongue in cheek" while also having "a little truth" in them.

"Look, we are where we are because previous administrations — whether through benign neglect...or for whatever reasons — allowed this to happen and allowed it to get so out of balance that now it's not an easy thing to rebalance," Tillerson said, giving Trump credit for telling the Chinese that it was necessary to "change the paradigm" on trade.

In a separate bilateral meeting earlier Thursday morning, Trump had blamed the U.S.-China trade imbalance — the Commerce Department reported a $29.9 billion trade deficit with China in September — on past administrations.

"It’s too bad that past administrations allowed it to get so far out of kilter," Trump said of the trade relationship. "But we’ll make it fair and it’ll be tremendous to both of us."

In joint remarks with Xi, Trump stressed the need to re-calibrate the relationship and said an agreement the two presidents signed Thursday morning for two-way commercial investments marked "a very, very good start."

Though Trump celebrated these investments — totaling over $200 billion — Tillerson told reporters in an off-camera briefing Thursday night that Chinese efforts on trade so far have been "in the grand scheme of things...pretty small."

"The Chinese acknowledge much more has to be done," the secretary of state said, adding that Trump's objectives on trade with Beijing have yet to be met.

The leaders exited after making joint remarks without taking questions — a break with precedent of former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, who have pressed their Chinese counterparts to allow exchanges with reporters.

As Trump exited, a shouted question from an American reporter — "Do you still believe China is raping the United States, Mister President?" — went unanswered but underscored the yawning gap between the president's language on China as a candidate and as president.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.