Xinhua | Ju Peng | Getty Images

Xi Jinping delivers a report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on behalf of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 18, 2017.

Xi, who became China’s president in 2012 and has since pursued a more aggressive approach to foreign policy, is “openly contesting the power of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“The Chinese government believes that the United States is weakening … from say in the George H.W. Bush administration when we were all powerful in the world,” Burns argued, describing a perception that the U.S. has been “distracted over the last 15 years by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Burns also advised the elder President Bush and Bill Clinton.

But Burns said China is underestimating “the power and resilience of the United States.” He called the Trump presidency a “leadership crisis” that won’t last forever, adding “there will be a new administration, perhaps in 2020 or maybe even a little longer.”

Burns was critical of the Trump administration’s nationalistic approach to trade, immigration and key U.S. alliances.

“Our alliances, NATO and the East Asian alliances, that’s the power differential between the United States and China. And the president is weakening those alliances,” Burns contended. “He’s shown us in 10 months what he doesn’t believe in,” not what he wants to accomplish.

However, Burns said the Trump administration is taking the correct approach in putting aside tough trade rhetoric on China in favor of enlisting the world’s second-largest economy to help deal with the provocations of North Korea. There’s been some success in getting China, an ally of North Korea, to apply some pressure, he said.

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