On Friday, the unpredictable Trump not only set a different tone but also avoided any public lapses in protocol that Chinese officials had feared could embarrass their leader.
President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping opened their high-stakes summit at Trump's Florida beach resort Thursday, with the urgent threat of North Korea's nuclear ambitions and tensions over trade on the agenda.
USA industry had hoped Trump would deliver a strong message to Xi behind closed doors to end what they see as discriminatory trade policies, but not do anything rash to spark a trade war. An anti-Chinese government demonstrator, left, is involved in an altercation with a supporter of the government, right, in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday, April 6, 2017.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Don't forget, we're the piggy bank.
The friendly tone was a far cry from Trump's acerbic campaign denouncements about China's "rape" of the U.S. economy and his vow to punish Beijing with punitive tariffs.
It was the first time the two leaders met, after a USA election that featured barbs at China's "rape" of the United States economy.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Florida for a summit meeting with Trump, North Korea's Foreign Ministry said that the USA "crossed the red line", as Washington continues to pressure Beijing to address the issues created by its southern neighbor. There is no shortage of topics to discuss, but one of the biggest measure of this meeting may be how the two leaders size each other up. The missile strike overshadowed the summit and also increased tension between the two countries over North Korea, as Trump signaled that he's willing to take unilateral action against a regime flouting worldwide norms.
"The two sides noted the urgency of the threat of North Korea's weapons programmes, reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearised Korean peninsula and committed to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions", Spicer said.
The leaders met amid a host of thorny issues, including regional maritime disputes, Chinese base building in disputed islands, and the recent deployment of a USA air defense system to South Korea that Beijing fears could be used for espionage.
The U.S. military began deployment of the THAAD system in March, a day after the North test-fired four ballistic missiles.
He brought his top economic and national advisers to Florida for the meeting, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Wang Dong, associate professor of worldwide studies at China's elite Peking University, said the move may have had the added bonus in Trump's eyes of sending North Korea a message over its nuclear program, but that China was unlikely to be fazed. DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. By demonstrating a willingness to use military force if lines are crossed, Trump sent a clear message with direct implications for handling North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. The then-presidential candidate also accused China of manipulating its currency to boost exports, and threatened to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports as retaliation.
Trump and Xi also established a new and cabinet-level framework for negotiations, he said.
"We are going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it", said Trump just before dinner as he shook hands with Xi, who smiled.
Trump's barnstorming presidential campaign a year ago appeared to set him on course for conflict with China, which he accused of rigging forex markets and cheating at trade to steal American jobs.
Trump said in a brief appearance before reporters that he and Xi made "tremendous progress" in their first face-to-face talks and that he believe "lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away". He did not elaborate. But China's leaders are still trying to figure out Trump, and his quick decision to strike Syria may cause them to reconsider that assumption. These two leaders are supposed to talk more in detail about the issues on Friday.
In fact, the North justifies its nuclear weapons as a necessary deterrent to the US military threat and has over the past weeks warned that the biggest-ever joint U.S. -China summit was upstaged by USA missile strikes overnight against a Syrian air base from which Trump said a deadly chemical weapon attack had been launched earlier in the week.
Historically, China has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
China's response was muted.