Chinese Media Limits Coverage, Omits Key Details of Announced US–China Trade Deal

October 13, 2019 Updated: October 14, 2019

Since U.S. President Donald Trump announced the first phase of a trade deal struck between the United States and China, Chinese state media have kept their news coverage to a minimum, simply noting that the deal was “prudent” and a sign of progress.

Trump said at the White House on Oct. 11, together with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, that a deal had been reached in the first part of a series of agreements.

He said both sides have agreed to addressing intellectual property theft and allowing U.S. financial services into the Chinese market, but he didn’t elaborate. He also said China promised to purchase $40 billion to $50 billion worth of U.S. agricultural goods. In exchange, the United States would suspend a tariff hike on Chinese goods that was to take effect this week.

While U.S. media widely reported on the 37-minute White House press conference, Chinese state-run media Xinhua only reported about the talks in three short sentences.

“Both parties have made substantial progress in the fields of agriculture, intellectual property protection, exchange rates, financial services, expanding trade cooperation, technology transfer, and settling disputes,” Xinhua reported on Oct. 12.

The report didn’t mention that the United States and China had reached a partial trade deal, only noting that “both parties discussed the follow-up arrangements, and agreed to work together in the direction of reaching a final agreement.”

People’s Daily, the mouthpiece newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), reported on the trade talks on Oct. 13, using the same wording as Xinhua. It then described the contents of a letter from Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Trump, which Liu had presented to Trump during the press conference.

At the end, the article summarizes Trump’s words at the presser; both sides would soon draft a “phase-one agreement.”

Most Chinese media didn’t report on China’s commitment to buy more U.S. agricultural goods.

State broadcaster CCTV did note in an Oct. 12 report that bilateral trade in agriculture fit both countries’ interests, noting that 90 percent of the soybeans that China consumes are imported from foreign countries, and that the country is in need of pork, because of the African swine fever epidemic that has decimated local hog populations.

Almost all Chinese media used the word “prudent” to describe their expectations about future trade talks.

Xinhua Net reposted an article from Economy Daily, a state-owned newspaper, in which it said, “The overall situation is still complicated … both parties should not be too optimistic.”

The Economy Daily article further stated that because both sides have still enacted tariffs on each other’s goods, the confrontation “has not changed.”

The article noted that Beijing’s ultimate goal is for all U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods to be canceled.

“Fighting, while also negotiating, will be the norm [for U.S.–China trade talks],” it said.