Xi Jinping is seen in Beijing in December.

Xi Jinping is seen in Beijing in December. Nicolas Asfouri/AP

Donald Trump and China’s President Finally Broke the Ice — By Snail Mail

In his letter to Xi, Trump wished the Chinese people a "happy Lantern Festival," though the Lunar New Year holiday period ended last week in China.

Donald Trump and China’s president Xi Jinping have made progress in their relationship.

The two heads of state finally made contact for the first time since Trump became president. In a letter “provided” to Xi yesterday (Feb. 8), Trump said he looked forward to working with Xi to “develop a constructive relationship” that benefits both countries, and wished the Chinese people a “happy Lantern Festival,” according to a White House statement.

Two weeks into his presidency, Trump has spoken with 18 foreign leaders either in person or by phone—but amid a period of growing tensions between China and the US, Xi’s name was conspicuously absent. Trump also ignored a decades-long tradition of sending holiday greetings to the Chinese public in the recent Lunar New Year holiday, with some wondering whether he has delegated the task of diplomacy to his daughter Ivanka altogether, after she attended a Lunar New Year celebration at the Chinese embassy in Washington DC last week.


According to Chinese tradition, the Lunar New Year period technically ends with the Lantern Festival, or the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month (which falls on Feb. 11 this year). However, the weeklong holiday period in China concluded last week, which means that for most people the festivities of the new year are long over and normal life has resumed.

Trump and Xi have in fact communicated with each other, but that was before Trump was inaugurated. Xi sent a congratulatory telegram and made a phone call to Trump soon after he won the election in November. Trump also said that he had received a “beautiful” holiday card from Xi, during an interview with the Wall Street Journal (paywall) in January. In the Feb. 8 letter to Xi, Trump also thanked Xi for his “congratulatory letter” on his inauguration, according to the White House.