President Donald Trump praised Chinese business leaders during his state visit to China, pointing out frankly that he didn't blame them for the massive trade deficit with the United States.
"I don't blame China," Trump said, pointing to estimations that the trade deficit with the United States was as high as $500 billion. "After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit."
His remarks drew applause from the business leaders in the room.
Trump blamed previous presidents of the United States for allowing the lopsided trade relationship with China.
"I do blame past administrations for allowing this out-of-control trade deficit to take place and to grow," he said. "We have to fix this because it just doesn't work for our great American companies, and it doesn't work for our great American workers. It is just not sustainable."
Trump said that he had a great relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and would continue to negotiate on trade.
"There's a very good chemistry between the two of us, believe me," he said.
Trump repeated his remarks during a media appearance with President Xi prior to a meeting with the Chinese president, pointing out that the United States had a responsiblity to change it's trade policies.
"[I]t's too bad that past administrations allowed it go get so far out of kilter," he said. "But we'll make it fair, and it will be tremendous for both of us."
Trump, however, did not blame the United States for the Chinese theft of intellectual property, telling business leaders that it was costing the United States at least $300 billion a year.
"My administration is committed to improving our trade and business relationships with China," he said. "And this relationship is something which we are working very hard to make a fair and reciprocal one."