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Trump did not take questions from reporters during his China visit

Past presidents have used their visits to press authoritarian leaders to face the media

Washington CNN  — 

US President Donald Trump did not take questions from reporters in China, forfeiting a potential opportunity to push Chinese leader Xi Jinping to face the press.

Trump and Xi both appeared before reporters in Beijing during the US President’s visit, but did not answer questions from media.

US presidents in the past have been able to use their foreign visits to create a rare moment for press-averse authoritarian leaders to face questions from reporters: Then-Presidents Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002 each convinced their Chinese counterparts to take questions from reporters during their first state visits to China.

The choice for Trump and Xi not to take questions from reporters in China came by a request from that government, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

“It was at the Chinese insistence there were no questions today,” she said.

Former President Barack Obama also did not take questions from reporters on his first trip to China as president next to Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader at the time.

And a 2014 joint press event between Obama and Xi took weeks of negotiations between the White House and China.

At the 2014 event, New York Times reporter Mark Landler asked Xi in part about international press access in China. Xi initially seemed to bristle at the question, moving on to a Chinese reporter and then saying China had made progress on human rights and that The New York Times was the cause of its own access problems in China.

During his visit, Trump offered praise to the Chinese for their approach to trade with the US, saying China was successfully taking advantage of failed US policies, and the Chinese received Trump with an extensive state welcome.

But some critics took issue with Trump – who himself regularly attacks the US press – letting the moment go by to push Xi to answer questions.

On Twitter, Obama-era White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “The Chinese try this every time. It’s a test of will and principle. Letting them dictate press access is an embarrassing capitulation.”

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report from Beijing.