President Donald Trump said Thursday that he does not blame China for its economic success at the expense of the United States, what he called a "one sided" trade relationship.

"I don't blame China," he said at a business event joined by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"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."

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The comments are a remarkable shift in tone by Trump, who campaigned on a hardline promise to take China to task over its trade practices with the United States only to soften his language toward Beijing as president.

"I think what [Trump is] saying is that China is pursuing its own national interests," U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad told reporters, including NBC News, before Trump and Xi made joint remarks.

"You can't blame any country for doing that. We just have to do a better job of doing that for the United States."

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