China experts say that in the face of crippling tariffs and other restrictions that the Trump administration has imposed on Beijing, its communist leadership is under immense pressure to give in to some demands.
Even so, a former professor at a Beijing university, who now lives in Washington, cited a high-ranking Chinese official as saying that Chinese leader Xi Jinping won’t back down in the trade war.
Qiao Mu emigrated to the United States with his family after resigning from his position at the Foreign Studies University in March 2017, in response to criticism over writing a politically sensitive article. In a recent tweet, he said that Xi wouldn’t bow to U.S. demands, even if Washington imposed more economic punishment.
“We weren’t afraid of the comprehensive embargo and the sanctions after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, why should we worry about the tariffs now? In the past, relations with the United States were our first priority, but now we have the Belt and Road project, as well as markets around the world in Africa and Latin America,” Qiao cited the official as saying.
However, U.S.-based commentator Xia Xiaoqiang says that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is in crisis and that “the blow to China’s economy is fatal” for the CCP.
“The only legitimacy that the CCP has in controlling China that it ensures economic growth. [As long as this continues,] it isn’t afraid of criticism on human rights or other issues,” Xia wrote in a Nov. 21 article run in the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times.
“Once it loses control over the Chinese economy, the CCP’s rule is over,” Xia wrote.
According to Xia, Trump’s tariffs on Chinese export goods entering the United States have weighed on Beijing, with consequences that include foreign companies shifting production and capital out of China, rising unemployment, and social unrest.
Tang Jingyuan, another China watcher, said that Xi and other CCP leaders are working very hard to make a deal with the United States.
“Xi’s administration is trying negotiate with Trump, but with several pre-conditions,” Tang said. He believes that Xi wants to protect its Made in China 2025 plan, designed to give it a leg up in high-tech manufacturing.
“It [the CCP] isn’t mentioning the plan now, but the CCP’s fate hinges on whether it can implement the Made in China 2025 plan.”
Tang said that there are some rumors that CCP is preparing for a worst-case scenario in that it would cut off relations with the United States entirely—as Qiao suggested in his Twitter post—closing off the country would prove easier said than done.
“China’s society is totally different from the one that existed in 1989,” Tang said. “How can the CCP use the same model to control people? Some say that the CCP may expand the methods it uses on the Uighurs of Xinjiang to cover the entire Chinese population if negotiations go badly, but I don’t think it’s possible. Seven hundred million Chinese have internet access. Information spreads too quickly, and it will be hard to bring everyone under control like this.”
Tang noted that the Chinese regime relies on U.S. dollar reserves for its international trade. If Beijing sells off its U.S. Treasury bonds, its central banks will lose a large portion of their assets and the Chinese regime’s global influence will shrink dramatically. “The CCP can’t survive without the U.S. dollar,” Tang said.
While both Xia and Tang agree that the Chinese authorities are eager to reach an agreement with the United States to end the trade war, the actual process would be fraught with difficulty.
“The United States wants the CCP to implement a comprehensive trade reform, but the CCP’s fundamental condition for survival is that it has to break international rules and steal intellectual property. Should the CCP agree to genuine reform, China would develop a market economy, that means that the CCP would lose its economic dominance,” Xia said.
The CCP may apply a delaying strategy mixed with underhanded tricks by agreeing to some demands but then reneging on them.
“President Trump’s presidency is limited by the length of his term in office. He has six more years [starting now] if he wins the election in 2020,” Tang said. “The CCP may use [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un’s strategy in Trump-Kim Summit, which was to agree to apply reforms in stages, and then fail to act on the promise or only implement it slowly.”
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