WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made what seemed to be an overture to the Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a series of tweets on Wednesday night that linked the protests in Hong Kong to the continuing trade conflict between the U.S. and China.

Trump praised Xi as “a great leader” who wants to “quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem.” The president ended that post with “Personal meeting?” without clarifying whether he was suggesting a summit with Xi.

In a tweet sent shortly before that, Trump wrote that “of course China wants to make a trade deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!”

He also said that his decision to hold off on imposing new tariffs on China until December “actually helps China more than us, but will be reciprocated. Millions of jobs are being lost in China to other non-Tariffed countries.”

The White House had no immediate comment on the tweets, which were posted hours after U.S. equities plunged as a Treasury yield curve inverted, heightening fears of a recession. The trade dispute with China has contributed to the rising anxiety, which arrived at a difficult time for Trump, who has based his reelection strategy on a robust economy.

Attempting to carry out diplomacy over social media, however, carries risks.

Even suggesting a link between the trade dispute and the Hong Kong unrest will feed suspicions in Beijing that the U.S. is seeking to leverage China’s domestic crisis as part of broader strategy to check its rise. China has in recent weeks attempted to paint the U.S. as a “black hand” behind the protests, with a front-page commentary in the Communist Party’s People Daily newspaper saying Thursday that the goal of such forces was fomenting a “color revolution.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump tried to deflect criticism of his trade agenda by lashing out at Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, and blamed his policies for the bad news in the markets.

He repeated his criticism that the U.S. is being harmed by the Fed not lowering interest rates quickly enough relative to other countries.


(Brendan Scott and Jennifer Jacobs contributed to this story.)


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