President Xi Jinping naval parade 0412
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00:10 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The images could not have provided a greater contrast. At one point on the globe, a nation’s leader in military fatigues, overseeing its largest display of naval power ever, and in waters that are at the heart of a regional territorial dispute.

At another, a besieged president waylaid by seemingly endless domestic turmoil and under pressure from the international community bracing for the fallout from Friday’s US-led punitive strike on Syria.

If the images demonstrate anything at all, it could be that as America’s commander-in-chief’s focus is split, China’s has a singular aim.

For Xi Jinping, his destroyer carving through the South China Sea, there was only one unmistakable message transmitted to the world: It’s China First.

The singlemindedness of Xi’s strategy to expand China’s influence and reach contrasts sharply with the ever-shifting stance of US President Donald Trump, who came to power declaring his administration would put America first.