Donald Trump ordered the tomahawks to fly into Syria while Chinese President Xi Jinping was visiting at Mar-a-Lago. The Chinese president, who notably hates golf and golf courses, was polite, if not enthusiastic, about his combination breakfast buffet and show of force while he was in the United States. But now that Xi has left the building, Chinese state-owned media is giving a better sense of what their government really thought of Trump’s display.
Xinhua, the state news agency, on Saturday called the strike the act of a weakened politician who needed to flex his muscles. In an analysis, Xinhua also said Mr. Trump had ordered the strike to distance himself from Syria’s backers in Moscow, to overcome accusations that he was “pro-Russia.”
That unflattering assessment reflected China’s official opposition to military interventions in the affairs of other countries. But it was also a criticism of Mr. Trump himself, who Mr. Xi had hoped was a man China could deal with.
Note the past tense. If Trump thought that letting fly at Assad would be a subtle nudge to President Xi that “this could be North Korea,” the hint was not missed. Or appreciated.
Chinese analysts, whose advice is sometimes sought by the government on foreign policy questions, were scornful of the strike, which they viewed as a powerful country attacking a nation unable to fight back. And they rejected what they viewed as an unspoken American message equating Syria, which has no nuclear arsenal, with North Korea, which has carried out five nuclear arms tests and hopes to mount a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental missile.