The Chinese Who Support Trump’s Trade War

Entrepreneurs and reform-minded officials see US policy as much-needed external shock
November 30, 2018 Updated: November 30, 2018

U.S. president Donald Trump will meet China’s Xi Jinping in Argentina soon, and the world is looking forward to the results of their negotiations.

Despite the intensity of the Sino-U.S. trade war, there are a significant number of Chinese who support the policies of the Trump administration.

“President Trump may not be aware of this, but he has even more supporters in China than in the United States,” said columnist Hu Shaojiang. He believes that as the G20 Summit nears, there are more and more Chinese who see the Sino-U.S. trade war as a conflict between China’s communist leadership and social elites. Many Chinese, Hu said, believe that Trump’s policies are helping China become a more open and advanced country.

Chen Pokong, a famous U.S.-based Chinese commentator, expressed similar opinions on Nov. 26. In a YouTube video, he said there are two groups of Chinese who secretly support Trump: “most of the entrepreneurs in the private sector” and “CCP officials who want a better path for China.”

Reuters columnist Rob Cox wrote on Nov. 21 that the trade war doesn’t benefit Chinese businesses directly, but Chinese entrepreneurs support Trump because he will force the creation of “more open markets and competition,” and because “his push for reform is pretty much the only game in town (China).”

It is strange that in the trade dispute between the United States and China, there would be Chinese who support the U.S. government over Beijing’s policies.

Long Yongtu, China’s former vice minister of commerce who served as chief negotiator in China’s accession to WTO, recently criticized the central government at the 2018 Caixin-ICBC International Investment Forum. He said that the Chinese regime’s counter-tariffs targeting American agricultural products has been a failure.

Long noted that China has a massive and urgent demand for soybeans, and that American soybeans are in good quality and cheap. That the CCP “focused on agricultural products from the start” was not “a sound action,” Long said.

It is rare for CCP officials to issue criticism of Party policy. Long’s statements can be understood as an indicator of rising internal conflict in the CCP.

Liu Shijin, vice Chairman of the China Development Research Foundation and former assistant director of the Chinese State Council’s Development Research Center, gave a speech on Nov. 20 urging the government to strive for the “Two Highs” of “high-standard market economy and high-level opening up to the international community.”

The “Two Highs” advocated by Liu challenge the CCP’s “Four Confidences,” which were introduced in 2016 as part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s political theory. The “confidences” are as follows: “confidence in our chosen path, confidence in our political system, confidence in our guiding theories, and confidence in our culture.”

Chen Pokong said that CCP’s confidences ask party members to follow Deng Xiaoping’s elites’ driven economic policy and Mao Zedong’s one party dictatorship political system. But within CCP, there are many officials are “longing for democracy and freedom, hoping China moving forward, wishing China have further reform and open, and entering a civilized world,” Radio Free Asia reported.

According to Chen, Long Yongtu and Liu Shijin are among the Chinese officials whose opinions diverge from Xi and support Trump in the clash with Beijing.

Chinese private sector entrepreneurs suffer from overbearing CCP policy and unfair competition from state-owned enterprises.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang confirmed on Sept. 28 that private businesses are hard-pressed to take out bank loans at reasonable interest rates. Meanwhile state enterprises are heavily subsidized.

“[Private-sector entrepreneurs] are looking forward to a fair competition environment vis-a-vis state-run companies. They hope the CCP can back down in the trade war and respect the rules of free trade,” Chen said.

Cox, the Reuters correspondent, said that the Chinese regime doesn’t have the political capital to enact market-friendly reforms, and things are going backwards under the current leadership. “Xi appears largely uninterested in economic issues, preferring to focus on making the Chinese Communist Party great again,” he wrote.

Since 2017, the Communist Party has enhanced its control over state-owned enterprises while increasing its reach in the private sectors. Even in Hong Kong, the Party has forced 123 listed companies set up internal Party committees by September 2018.

Cox believes that to avoid tighter control by the CCP and to be able to compete with state-run companies on a level playing field, private-sector entrepreneurs know that the Trump administration is their only hope.

“In parts of the country’s private sector, there is surprising, if discreet, support for the U.S. president,” Cox said.