Hard-liners are calling on Beijing to be more defiant, emboldened by the Trump administration’s efforts to blame China for the mounting death toll in the United States. Moderates are warning that Beijing’s strident responses could backfire, isolating the country when it most needs export markets and diplomatic partners to revive its economy and regain international credibility.
“I have a very good relationship, but I just — right now I don’t want to speak to him,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Xi on Thursday. A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian, brushed aside Mr. Trump’s threat to sever relations, saying on Friday that the two countries should cooperate.
The bellicose voices in Beijing have been subtly challenged by proponents of a more moderate approach, and the Chinese foreign ministry distanced itself from Mr. Hu’s comments on nuclear weapons. Despite the ill-will, both governments have pushed ahead with the partial deal to ease trade tensions.