After the latest round of U.S.-China trade talks ended on May 10 with no agreement, China’s state-run media ramped up its propaganda efforts to portray the United States as an adversary, blaming it for the lack of progress in negotiations, while also warning citizens to brace for hard times ahead.
“Washington tried to bring up terms that either harmed the sovereignty and dignity of China, or that were seriously unequal and unrealistic. Those requests have made the negotiations more difficult,” read one of two editorials published by Global Times, a hawkish newspaper published under the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, People’s Daily, on May 12.
After the talks concluded, Phoenix Television, a Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing broadcaster, published the transcript of an interview by Chinese state media with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who headed the Chinese trade delegation.
In the interview, Liu said there were three unresolved disputes between the United States and China, first noting that the Chinese side wanted all tariffs to be eliminated.
The second was about China’s promise to buy more goods from the United States. According to Liu, the two sides had differing views on the trade volumes.
The third, Liu said, was because China believed the agreement lacked balance. “Every nation has its dignity,” he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials and a Reuters report, citing U.S. government and private sources, said that China had reneged on drafted commitments to change its laws to resolve core complaints that caused the United States to enact punitive tariffs last year, such as theft of U.S. intellectual property and trade secrets; forced technology transfers; competition policy; access to financial services; and currency manipulation.
Addressing that U.S. claim, Liu said China thought it was normal to make changes before a final deal.
Liu also denied that China has been stealing U.S. trade secrets. “China is a trustworthy country,” he argued.
In recent months, U.S. prosecutors have charged a growing number of Chinese companies, hackers, and spies for allegedly stealing intellectual property from U.S. firms. Others already have been sentenced.
Even as trade discussions were about to start in Washington, the Global Times issued an editorial on May 9, contending that the United States had ill intentions.
The editorial likened the forthcoming trade negotiations in the U.S. capital to the events of “Hongmen Banquet,” a famous incident from Chinese history in which a banquet was prepared in an attempt to assassinate the guest.
Reiterating previous statements, the Global Times said the dispute was the result of “unreasonable requests from the U.S.” based on the “wrong understanding that the U.S. is naturally the privileged side in the bilateral relation because of its national power.”
Getting Ready for the Worst
But in another May 12 editorial, the Global Times admitted that the newly announced tariff increase to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods would bring the “worst scenario” for China to handle.
“The tariff war is now being fought at the highest possible level,” the article stated. “At this stage, we are preparing ourselves, progressively, for this ‘worst scenario’ mentally and strategically,” alluding to the fact that the Chinese economy could suffer as a result of the trade dispute.
The editorial described China’s negotiation strategy as “fighting while negotiating,” noting that China will stay resilient despite the odds.
“To defend China’s sovereignty and dignity, and safeguard the long-term development of the Chinese people, nothing is unbearable for China,” it read.
The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin, also published a May 7 article on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media platform, calling on China’s young generation to be prepared for “boisterous storms” down the road.
He wrote that China’s young people under the age of 30 grew up in a peaceful environment without war or significant turmoil. But “in the next 10 to 20 years, they will spend their lives in the midst of intermittent or continuous, intense fights between U.S. and China,” he said.
He portrayed the United States and Western countries as adversaries “who are trying to hijack us as we walk on our path.”
In a separate editorial from May 7, the Global Times revealed Beijing’s true agenda: “[Hopefully] the trade war will bring chaos to the American society, and as a result, American voters will send another president to the White House in the 2020 election.”
President Donald Trump seemed to have predicted that in a May 11 Twitter post: “I think that China felt they were being beaten so badly in the recent negotiation that they may as well wait around for the next election, 2020, to see if they could get lucky & have a Democrat win – in which case they would continue to rip-off the USA for $500 Billion a year….”