President Trump's cruise missile strikes on a Syrian government airfield on Friday reportedly made his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Mar-A-Lago resort awkward. Not necessarily to Trump but for Xi who was told about the attack before it happened on Thursday. The spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned after the strikes, against the escalation of tension between the Syrians, Russians and the U.S. government. But China has held back on making any statements to say if they were for or against the strikes, unlike others in the international community.

With the exception of Iran and Russia; other nations such as Turkey, Britain, Canada and Saudi Arabia applauded the strikes, saying they were a long time coming. But many could also see similarities with another country that enjoys the benefits of diplomacy with China, North Korea. Because since Trump entered the Oval Office, his administration has reportedly sent attack drones to the North Korean border which Pyongyang interprets as a sign of aggression, in response to their increased missile launches which many believe pose a nuclear threat to the rest of the world.

Trump's hardball action towards China

Trump's time in the political arena has formed the perception that he is vague – perhaps even ignorant – of foreign affairs, but it's also shown which countries he sees as a threat such as Mexico, many countries in the Middle East and China, who he has threatened to slap with tariffs and accused of flooding America with cheap steel who he also blames for taking jobs.

His aggressive stance with China really began to form with him not honoring the One China policy late last year which reportedly angered Xi Jinping. Many felt that this was on accident and display of his ignorance before it was revealed that it was intentional. By February, China appeared to show signs that they would be willing to be more flexible with Trump to establish a trade relationship.

Up until Xi Jingping's Mar-A-Lago visit, it was suggested that their meeting would be cordial.

But, it was also reported that Trump would confront him with his hard line on North Korea to say that if China didn't do anything about reigning them in, then the U.S. would. This does have similarities to the situation between the U.S.

and Russia, who act as the intermediary to Syria, where U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also told the Russian Ambassador that if they didn't do anything about Syria's chemical attack on its own people, that the U.S. would act on its own. As a negotiating tactic, China could very well see that the military strikes on the Syrian airfield were more than just rhetoric and could apply it to warnings about North Korea. This was also suggested by professor Zhang Baohui of international affairs at Lingnan University in Hong Kong who according to the Los Angeles Times, said: “I think [the strike] may affect China's negotiating positions on the North Korea issue. This strike bolsters the credibility of an implied threat by Trump.”

China's relationship with Syria

The same article said that China did not see the strikes as a distraction from the meeting, but does say that China does not want a war in the Korean peninsula and might, therefore, enforce more sanctions against North Korea.

The former Obama administration has also tried to pressure China on sanctions which some reports at the time seemed to show that there was little trade activity at the North Korean border. But it's also likely that they have not enforced the sanctions entirely and more flexible with the Hermit Kingdom. But it appears to also be correct that China does not want to have to deal with a wave of North Korean refugees should the U.S. go to war with Pyongyang.

China, however, has been critical of the U.S. with its actions against other countries, suggesting that the U.S. prefers instability throughout the Middle East. But when it's come to Syria, they have also voted with Russia at the United Nations against Western powers trying to stop Assad.

Bashar al-Assad gave an interview last month on Chinese television saying that their country's relationship with China would be on the rise, saying that they were a real friend. It was also reported that last year, a diplomat for Jinping's government offered to provide the Assad regime with humanitarian assistance, even traveling to Damascus for the meeting. Much like President Trump, China is providing very few clues as to what they will do next.

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