Trump’s unwillingness to criticize Putin is one of the factors that has stoked suspicions that there was some sort of collusion in the 2016 election or a dark secret that the Russians know about Trump. Given what we’ve learned in the Stormy Daniels and related scandals, obviously no one should be heavily invested in Trump’s personal probity. But it’s notable that Trump also doesn’t criticize President Xi, even as he harshly attacks Chinese trade policies that he believes have seriously harmed America’s interests and lurches toward a potential trade war:
President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade. China will take down its Trade Barriers because it is the right thing to do. Taxes will become Reciprocal & a deal will be made on Intellectual Property. Great future for both countries!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
Could it be that Xi also has something on Trump? More likely is that, given how his own psychology works, Trump thinks it’s a mistake to personally criticize anyone who you ultimately want to do a deal with (outside of Kim Jung-un, who Trump wanted to intimidate, and for good reason).