After the U.S.-China trade talks concluded on May 10 with no agreement, Chinese state media responded aggressively, repeatedly claiming that China is “not afraid to fight” and will “fight to the end.” Many Chinese netizens fear that the seemingly optimistic propaganda will victimize Chinese civilians as the Chinese regime attempts to rally them into their cause of fighting the United States and winning the trade war.
The U.S. administration imposed a tariff increase on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports on May 10, raising duties to 25 percent from 10 percent.
In retaliation, Beijing announced on May 13 that it would boost tariffs, ranging from 5 percent to 25 percent, on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods.
Immediately after the trade talks concluded on May 10, the Chinese regime’s official mouthpieces kept silent. But two days later, various state-run media—such as the CCTV, the People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency—simultaneously began a propaganda war to criticize the United States for failing to reach an agreement in the trade talks, portraying the United States as an international bully with a hegemonic mindset. They declared that China is “not afraid to fight” with the United States, and the trade war is going to be “a people’s war,” and China is “willing to make all kinds of sacrifices” to fight this war “to the end.”
Chinese Netizens: We Will Be Sacrificed
Many Chinese netizens posted comments on Weibo and WeChat—Chinese social media platforms that are similar to Twitter and Facebook—criticizing the familiar phrase “make all kinds of sacrifices” used in propaganda to boost public morale. Some say the phrase has scared them because it means that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will sacrifice the interests of its own people to achieve its goals.
“Obviously we will be sacrificed and will have to suffer,” one netizen wrote.
“We, who are about to be sacrificed, feel scared,” another netizen wrote, and several others echoed him.
Many people expressed similar views:
“(Chinese authorities) try to transfer the ‘sacrifice’ to the public.”
“It is you (the authorities) who are willing to make all kinds of sacrifices. But, I am sorry, don’t pull me into this. I don’t want to get involved.”
“Of course the authorities are not afraid to fight, because it is the 1.4 billion people who will be sent to the frontline.”
“We will be ripped off.”
A netizen mocked China’s Central Television (CCTV) and wrote: “What use is it to make these boastful statements in front of Chinese people? Do you dare to make the same announcement in English and broadcast it in your international channels?”
“I cannot understand your logic that you have to fight constantly,” a netizen wrote, criticizing the CCP’s philosophy of struggle. “Go ahead with your fight. It’s none of our business.”
There were also complaints about China’s rich and powerful elite. One netizen wrote: “Of course they are not afraid. The officials enjoy privileges—they eat well; they get free medical care; their wives, mistresses and children live in foreign countries, and all of them are billionaires. What’s there to be afraid of? They will plunder the wealth of 1.4 billion Chinese people to fight this war. That’s what they mean by sacrifice.”
Many of these posts have been removed by internet police.
Chinese people living in America and Canada also chimed in the discussion on overseas Chinese-language forums.
A Weibo user from Vancouver commented that China’s propaganda is meant to lead the Chinese people to extreme nationalism and anti-U.S. sentiment, which would make it easy for the CCP to maintain its control over society.
A Weibo user living in the United States said he has studied the details of the proposed trade agreements. “Chinese delegates tried to trick the U.S. delegates, in a way that China can act like a scoundrel to violate the terms in the agreement, with the excuse that China has its own laws. The U.S. delegates rejected firmly and demanded to stick to the original enforceable version. President Trump is truly awesome!” he wrote.
Another Chinese American, who is a member of a WeChat group called “Chinese working or studying in the U.S.,” looked into the details of the terms proposed by the U.S. delegates. He said these terms are actually good for China’s economic development and for China to become a respected member in the international society. “Beijing doesn’t like it because these terms will threaten the CCP’s rule,” he wrote.
China’s Propaganda Targets the US as the Scapegoat
U.S.-based China expert Heng He told the Epoch Times on May 14 that the Chinese regime is to blame for failing to reach an agreement during the latest round of trade talks, because the CCP refuses to make structural changes for the sake of maintaining its power.
“However, the CCP will never admit its mistakes, they will always find a scapegoat. For instance, the CCP’s Great Leap Forward movement led to the Great Famine from 1959 to 1961, but CCP made up two excuses—natural disasters and the Soviet Union pressed China for payment of debts. As a matter of fact, these two excuses are sheer lies.”
According to Heng, the trade war will land another blow to China’s already declining economy. The CCP must find an excuse again this time, so naturally China’s propaganda targets the United States as the scapegoat.