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Cooperation is 'only correct choice,' China's Xi Jinping tells Donald Trump

In a phone call with the US president-elect, Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the importance of relations with the United States.

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A man reads a newspaper with a headline that reads 'US President-elect Donald Trump delivers a mighty shock to America' at a newsstand in Beijing on Nov. 10.

Andy Wong/AP/File

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President-elect Donald Trump had their first interaction since the election in the form of a phone call on Monday, during which President Xi reportedly told Mr. Trump that "cooperation is the only correct choice" for the world's two largest economies. 

"During the call, the leaders established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another, and President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward," a statement from Trump's presidential transition office said. 

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The call comes amid a time of uncertainty surrounding the future relationship between the two countries, following a campaign in which Trump repeatedly blamed China for making progress at the expense of Americans. But the true impact of a Trump presidency on issues facing China and the US, including global trade, climate change, and the security balance in the Asia-Pacific, has remained unclear. 

"There's a lot of uncertainty," Jia Qingguo, the dean of the School of International Relations at Peking University, told The Christian Science Monitor last week, reportedly echoing the sentiments expressed by many Chinese foreign policy experts.

Despite the numerous unknowns, many Chinese nationalists say a Trump presidency is preferable to a Clinton presidency, as Peter Ford reported for the Monitor the day after the election:  

Chinese observers ... expect the future President Trump to care less than his predecessor, or than Hillary Clinton, about the way China is expanding its sphere of influence in its backyard.

Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, says Trump is likely to make trade the focus of his China policy, rather than strategic issues such as the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing has been building tiny reefs into military airstrips.

“There will be more trade pressure but less strategic pressure,” he says. “But China can handle those trade disputes.”

In the phone call Monday, Xi told Trump that both sides must "promote the two countries' economic development and global economic growth" and "push for better development going forward in China-U.S. relations," according to state media reports. 

"At present, there is an important opportunity and huge potential in China-U.S. cooperation," he said. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.