Minitrue: Trade War Not “Most Comfortable” for China

Minitrue: Trade War Not “Most Comfortable” for China

The following instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

All websites, delete the China News Service report "Expert: Has Reached Most Comfortable Stage for China." (August 26, 2019) [Chinese]

Liang Ming, a researcher at a -affiliated institute, told CNS on Sunday that China is in an increasingly favorable position after a recent exchange of blows in the ongoing U.S.-China trade conflict. Washington’s announcement of new tariffs on the $300 billion of Chinese imports not already affected was answered on Friday with Beijing’s retaliation against $75 billion of American goods. The U.S. then hit back again, promising to raise other, existing tariffs. A People’s Daily commentary on Sunday described the American moves as "a strategic mistake," and China’s reply as "a restrained response [that] was different in nature from the American provocation." "China has the confidence to walk its own path and to do things right," it added.

Liang also commented on the difference in scale between the two sides’ tariffs, comparing the exchange with the Battle of Red Cliffs. The third-century naval clash on the Yangtze river is a canonical example of superior strategy beating greater numbers. Liang’s remarks were widely mocked online as melodramatic and hubristic, however, with innuendo-laden barbs aimed at his “most comfortable” phrasing.

On Monday, Vice Premier Liu He called for the dispute to be settled through calm negotiations, rather than setting ships on fire. According to Anna Fifield and David J. Lynch at The Washington Post, Liang is not alone in his belief that China holds the upper hand amid an erratic series of claims and comments from U.S. President Donald Trump.

“They’ve decided Trump is a vacillating guy who can’t figure out what he wants and gets spooked every time the stock market goes down or someone accuses him of not being tough,” said Arthur Kroeber, managing director of Gavekal Dragonomics, a consultancy in Beijing. “Although there are problems in China, they believe they have their economy under control, more so than Trump. They think he is more vulnerable to a slowdown and that they can afford to wait him out.”

[…] Chinese officials were initially mystified by Trump’s unconventional style, and Xi is said to have faced criticism for underestimating Trump’s resolve to tackle China’s trading practices.

But emerging last week from this year’s Communist Party confab at the beach resort of Beidaihe, China’s leadership appears to have decided to hunker down.

“What’s the point of calling ‘a good friend’ and ‘a great leader’ but still increasing tariffs?” asked Yao Xinchao, a trade professor at the University of International Business and Economics. “He’s a 70-ish-year-old man but speaks like a 7-year-old kid. We just can’t listen to what he says now. I think Chinese leaders have realized this, too.”

[…] But the bottom line remains that China, which is experiencing a marked economic slowdown, wants a deal. [Source]

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.

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