US President Donald assured Beijing on Thursday that he would honour the "One China" policy followed by Washington since the 1970s, dialling down a major source of tension with a growing American adversary.
Amid increasing concern among American commentators that the new president had antagonised Beijing during his campaign, the White House announced that following up his letter to President Xi on Wednesday, Trump phoned him and "discussed numerous topics, and agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honour our One China policy.''
The White House statement seemed to suggest that China extracted public affirmation of the One-China policy from Trump after the US president had upset China by talking up a congratulatory phone call he took from the President of Taiwan (which China regards as a breakaway province) soon after his election victory, and suggested that he intended to use the One-China policy as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from Beijing.
China confirmed the development, saying Trump had "stressed that he fully understood the great importance for the US government to respect the One China policy".
China had reportedly declined to entertain a phone call from Trump unless he publicly affirmed the One-China policy, which came into existence in 1972 after Nixon's outreach to Beijing, and was formally adopted in 1979.
Although US-China ties have turned tetchy lately, at least three US Presidents before Trump embraced Beijing first before concluding that while it had to be engaged economically, it could be contained strategically.
In contrast, Trump irked Beijing with withering criticism of its trade and monetary practices, at one time advocating stiff tariffs on Chinese imports and questioning its attempts to dominate the
The US president was reportedly counselled to temper the approach towards Beijing by his secretary of state Rex Tillerson and his national security adviser Michael Flynn. It also took a five-year-old's charm to ease some of the tension.
Last week, Trump's granddaughter Arabella and her mother Ivanka (Trump's daughter) attended a Lunar New Year celebration at the Chinese Embassy in Washington where Arabella sang a song in Mandarin.
The easing of tensions with China came hours ahead of the arrival in Washington of Japan's Prime Miniser Shinzo Abe on a visit that will be closely watched by Beijing.
After talks at the White House, Trump and Abe are expected to bond over golf after flying to the US president's resort home in Florida.