Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, said Sunday that it's "very confusing" trying to discern who has President Donald Trump's ear on trade policy, as China-U.S. relations continue to come under strain over the issue.
In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Cui was asked for his take on the Trump administration's approach to trade.
"Are you clear who President Trump listens to on trade issues, whether it's moderates like Kudlow and Mnuchin or hard-liners like Navarro?" host Chris Wallace asked, referring to White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and trade adviser Peter Navarro.
Cui replied: "You tell me."
"Honestly, I've been talking to ambassadors of other countries in Washington, D.C., and this is also part of their problem," Cui continued. "They don't know who is the final decision-maker. Of course, presumably the president will take the final decision. But who is playing what role? Sometimes, it could be very confusing."
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to discuss trade at next month's Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, in what will be the first direct U.S.-China talks since August.
Trump announced three weeks ago that he was levying a new round of tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, prompting China to respond by imposing tariffs on $60 billion of American imports.
Cui was also asked about Vice President Mike Pence's recent speech on U.S.-China relations. The ambassador dismissed as "groundless" Pence's assertion that China is interfering in U.S. elections, contending that China has "a very good track record" of not inserting itself in other countries' internal affairs.
He contended that it was "normal practice for all the media" to buy advertising supplements such as Chinese state media have done in the Des Moines Register, The Washington Post and other newspapers.
"You see, Chinese media, they are just learning from America media to use all these means, to buy commercial pages from newspapers, to make their views known or to cover what is happening here," Cui said.
China's state-run newspapers are typically not known to run advertising supplements from U.S. media organizations.
Cui also said that accusations that China is stealing intellectual property and forcing technology transfers from U.S. companies are baseless and "not fair to the Chinese people."
Pence asserted in his speech that Chinese security agencies had "masterminded the wholesale theft of American technology," and U.S. officials said last week that federal agents extradited a Chinese government spy who has been accused of seeking to steal trade secrets from leading aviation firms.
"You see, China has 1.4 billion people," Cui said. "It would be hard to imagine that one-fifth of the global population could develop and not prosper, not by relying mainly on their own efforts but by stealing or forcing some transfer of technology from others. That's impossible."
Looking to next month's meeting between Trump and Xi, Cui said it was clear from previous meetings between the two leaders that "such top-level communication played a key role, irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward."
"There's a good, mutual understanding and a good working relationship between the two. I hope, and I'm sure, this will continue," Cui said.
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