Speaking on Tuesday at the National Republican Congressional Committee spring dinner in Washington, US President Donald Trump shared that he once called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “king” during a state visit to Beijing in 2017. He specified that although the Chinese head of state attempted to deny that he was a monarch, the US leader insisted.
"He said, 'But I am not king, I am president'. I said 'No, you're president for life, and therefore you're king'”, Trump addressed the gathering, causing gales of laughter. The POTUS then thought for second to himself, chuckled briefly and assured that Xi liked it, concluding that he gets “along with him great”.
Trump went on his first visit to China a year after he assumed office, in November 2017, and several months before China’s National People’s Congress removed the two-term limit on the Chinese presidency, paving way for Xi’s new terms.
The remark about Xi as “king”, as soon as it trickled out in media, caused a roar of laughter among netizens, with many unable to resist a number of checking comments:
“I bet he can’t pronounce his name”, one wrote tongue-in-cheek, referring to the POTUS’ verbal skills, while others resorted to hilarious memes instead:
Others meanwhile, suggested that by upholding the “king” rhetoric, Trump was supposedly visualising himself in this role back home:
he likes very much the dictators— yanez (@yanezgreenbay) 3 апреля 2019 г.
he would to be one
Exactly, you’d think people would at last realize what his 10 year plan looks like, again, you would think.— Eloy (@eloykmon) 3 апреля 2019 г.
That was his not so subtle hint that he would appreciate being called King. 🙄— puppymonkeybaby (@apzanolli) 3 апреля 2019 г.
“As if Xi doesn’t crave flattery”, one hit back, with another one retorting that Xi was more likely “amused at the idiocy of the American president”.
No, he was amused at the idiocy of the American president.— Joe Rainey (@joerainey4) 3 апреля 2019 г.
Some, meanwhile, picked up on the fact that Trump’s joke was made before China had passed legislation revoking the presidential two-term limit.
This is Trump's view of power. He admires (which is to say he envies) strongmen, dictators. He "jokes" about getting a third term or not leaving, just like he "joked" about President Xi being king before he called him that.— Alexandra Erin (@alexandraerin) 3 апреля 2019 г.
Some went as far as theorising on Trump’s chances of becoming president for life, arguing that the president has virtually no sense of humour, and if he does, jokes are understood by him as hacks:
If this thread grows long enough legs someone will call me alarmist for suggesting that Trump would try to become president for life when he can't without a Constitutional amendment.— Alexandra Erin (@alexandraerin) 3 апреля 2019 г.
The question, though, is: who would stop him?
I'm telling you the central axiom of human behavior is: what kind of headache is this going to cause me? As long as the headache it causes Trump to do something is less than the headache it would cause anyone in a position to stop him to actually do so… he'll get away with it.— Alexandra Erin (@alexandraerin) 3 апреля 2019 г.
Back in 2017, Trump was bestowed with a red-carpet welcome in China, becoming the first foreign head to dine in the Forbidden City since the founding of modern China, which abolished monarchical rule when the republic was established in the country back in 1912.
However, after the visit, bilateral ties between the world’s first and second economies soured significantly: starting in early 2018, Trump started imposing tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods imported by the US in order to reduce the trade deficit, with the move shortly sparking a still ongoing trade war, as soon as the Chinese side retaliated with reciprocal measures.
Addressing the Republican Committee, Trump stated that had he not pressed with the tariffs with regard to Chinese goods, then the Chinese economy would have caught up with the United States within just a few years.
"They would have caught us within a short period of time… within two years, by the end of my term, if you had a normal president… they would have caught us. But right now it's going to be a long time before they catch us", he said.
With a reference to the ongoing bilateral negotiations, which are hoped to lead to a comprehensive trade deal with the Chinese, Trump noted that his country is defending itself against China's "chronic trade abuses", adding that he has respect for the Asian nation over their placing their country first by all means:
"They've taken advantage of our country and you know what, I respect them for it. I say it, we should have been doing that to them", he said.