Xi Jinping is currying favor with his fellow political princeling, Jared Kushner

Right-hand man.
Right-hand man.
Image: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
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Much has been made of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s family lineage and what it augurs for his domestic leadership. But those ties may also be influencing Xi’s approach to US relations and the Trump administration, according to (paywall) a New York Times report.

Xi is one of China’s political princelings, leaders with high-level family ties to China’s communist party. In a move typical of princeling leaders in China, Xi has forged solid “back channel” ties to Trump son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, who arguably holds a similar role to Chinese princelings in American politics.

In the US, Kushner’s advisory role in the White House has raised ethics and nepotism concerns. But Chinese officials appear to believe that, as a Trump family member, Kushner can forward their interests more than the State Department.

For example, Xi’s first meeting with US counterpart Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the “Southern White House” in Florida this week, has largely been orchestrated by Kushner and Chinese ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai.

After Trump accused China of unfair trade and currency policies during the election campaign, and then threatened to undermine the ”One China” Policy on Taiwan as president, Kushner reportedly set up a peace-making phone call between Xi and Trump. In a sign of informality, Kushner and Chinese ambassador Cui agreed to hold the upcoming meeting at Trump’s golf club rather than a more official venue. According to the Times, Cui has reportedly sent a US-China joint statement directly to Kushner, rather than diplomatic officials.

Chinese politics have long been shaped by princelings who, either by birth or by marriage, exert political influence over their family. Xi, for instance, is the son of a Communist pioneer who was later purged by Mao Zedong. Wang Qishan, a member of China’s Politburo Standing Committee who spearheaded anti-corruption campaigns under Xi, is a princeling politician by marriage. As a highly trusted family asset, Kushner resembles the ideal son-in-law in elite Chinese families.

China has also taken to his wife Ivanka. The Chinese ambassador invited her and the couple’s daughter, Arabella, to the embassy in Washington DC for Chinese New Year celebrations, and a video of her daughter singing in Mandarin went viral. Chinese media have dubbed Kushner America’s “first son-in-law,” “a more trusted son than Trump’s own sons” and, in reference to his physique, ”a fresh breeze in the world of potbellied CEOs.