HONG KONG — President Trump has sent a letter to his Chinese counterpart saying he looked forward to developing a “constructive relationship” with Beijing, the latest in a series of conciliatory signals by the new administration after months of heated rhetoric aimed at America’s largest trading partner.
The letter, dated Wednesday, also thanked China’s president, Xi Jinping, for a message he sent congratulating Mr. Trump on his inauguration and conveyed wishes to the Chinese people for the Lunar New Year, the White House said in a two-sentence statement.
It is unclear whether the letter was meant as a substitute for an anticipated phone conversation between the two leaders or as an ice-breaking prelude to such a call. Before his inauguration, Mr. Trump and his cabinet appointees made comments and took actions that alarmed Beijing and pointed to rocky ties between the world’s two biggest economies.
Since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has spoken by phone with about 20 foreign leaders. Usually highly scripted affairs, many of those calls have been anything but. The president’s conversation last month with Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister of Australia, turned contentious when Mr. Turnbull urged Mr. Trump to honor an agreement made under President Barack Obama to accept 1,250 refugees from an offshore detention center.
But arguably no bilateral relationship is more important than the one between Beijing and Washington, and the fact that Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi have not talked since Mr. Trump took office in January has drawn increasing scrutiny.