Washington: President Donald Trump thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping by tweet on Wednesday for his hospitality in Beijing, using his favourite communications platform for the first time in a nation that generally denies western social media to its own people.
“On behalf of @FLOTUS Melania and I, THANK YOU for an unforgettable afternoon and evening at the Forbidden City in Beijing, President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan. We are looking forward to rejoining you tomorrow morning," Trump tweeted.
Whether Trump should tweet from China was the subject of consternation in the run-up to his trip to Asia, raising concerns about cybersecurity, diplomacy, business issues and human rights.
The White House convened internal discussions and tapped US counter intelligence officials to consult on the matter before the president left on the trip last week, said a person familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
But with his tweet from Beijing on Wednesday, Trump answered at least one question—pernicious state control of communications networks won’t hinder him.
China blocks Twitter for most of its citizens, though people with access to virtual private networks, or VPNs, have been able to bypass social media restrictions despite government efforts to crack down on the practice.
China has occasionally allowed brief access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter when it hosts international summits.
And Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government has made Twitter available to various high-level foreigners, said Adam Segal, director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program with the Council on Foreign Relations. Ahead of Trump’s arrival, he said, the Chinese government had signalled that if Trump wanted to tweet, no one would stop him.
Trump tweeted from South Korea using his iPhone. But his first China tweet, as well as a subsequent tweet from Beijing warning North Korea “DO NOT TRY US", were sent from a web browser, not Twitter’s iPhone app, according to Tweetdeck.
Staff travelling with the president were advised to leave their personal cellphones behind and instead carry travel phones, people familiar with the matter said.
“Most people worried about security—when they go to China, they don’t bring their own phones, or bring a burner phone," Segal said. “On the security side, I assume they’d prefer he didn’t use his phone."