For the first time since his inauguration, China seems to have high praises for US President Donald Trump after he sent his belated Lunar New Year greeting to the Chinese people through a letter he wrote to communist leader Xi Jinping.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Thursday (9 February) that Beijing attached great importance to the bilateral ties and confirmed that it had received a letter from Trump. He lauded the POTUS for wishing Chinese people on their New Year and said cooperation between the two sides was the only available option, according to a Reuters report.

"It is known to all that since President Trump took office, China and the U.S. have been in close contact," Lu said. He, however, dismissed suggestions that Beijing took offence of the timing when Trump sent his greetings.

On Wednesday (8 February), Trump wrote to Xi seeking a "constructive relationship" and said he was looking forward to working with him to build better ties between the two countries.

It was reported to have been the first direct communication between the two leaders since Trump's inauguration on 20 January. They spoke to each other earlier in November, soon after the Republican won the elections.

Experts in China say the communist country should use this gesture of Trump as an opportunity to help the new leader "shape his views on future dealings with Beijing", the Global Times reported.

"Since Trump has made a lot of provocative statements toward China, this letter is a good signal but we still need to observe his real actions," said Diao Daming, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The Communist Party's mouth-piece noted that the US president spoke to leaders of many countries after taking charge of the White House, but not with China. It reportedly led to some people believing that Trump wanted to maintain a distance from China, while raising further concerns about the future of conflicts between the two countries, according to Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations.

"He sent a letter rather than made a phone call, so Trump may still want to keep his distance from China, but a friendly signal is better than a provocation. China can take this as a chance to help Trump to shape his view on dealing with China which is good for both sides," Chu said.

US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump wins praises for sending letter to China’s President Xi Jinping seeking ‘constructive relationship’ - File photo REUTERS/Joshua Roberts