Trump Dines With China Leader: 'We Have Developed a Friendship'

Image: Donald Trump and  Xi Jinping
US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during dinner at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Thursday, April 6, 2017.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

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By Ali Vitali

PALM BEACH, Fla. — The summit between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off with a lavish dinner at Mar-a-Lago Thursday night, with Trump calling it a "great honor" to host his counterpart.

With Xi seated on his right, Trump joked that the two already had a long discussion "and so far I have gotten nothing. Absolutely nothing."

"We have developed a friendship, I can see that," he added. "I think, long-term, we are going to have a very, very great relationship, and I look very much forward to it."

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Both leaders ignored shouted questions from reporters on North Korea.

Trump's positive tone about the U.S.-China relationship is a departure from his hostile rhetoric on the campaign trail about China's trade practices and currency manipulation. Thursday morning, before leaving for Florida on Air Force One, Trump reiterated that the U.S. has "not been treated fairly on trade."

At Trump's Palm Beach estate and private club, the meal was enjoyed in a gilded room with chandeliers hanging overhead. Over two dozen people were seated around the table, among them Trump's daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon.

Those who were hoping for Big Macs — Trump loves fast food — were left with a heaping plate of disappointment. Speaking with Fox News in 2015, Trump balked at the idea of luxe state dinner in light of China's currency manipulation tactics, instead saying if he were president he'd serve the Chinese leader a double Big Mac.

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"I'd get him a McDonald's hamburger and I'd say we gotta get down to work," Trump said in the early days of his candidacy.

At Mar-a-Lago, Xi and his wife were instead presented a menu of pan-seared dover sole with champagne sauce and Thumbelina carrots, or dry-aged New York Strip steak with whipped potatoes.

The Chinese leader is expected to be in Mar-a-Lago until Friday afternoon.