Trade war, day 48: Low expectations and gloating propaganda


Chinese and U.S. officials met in Washington today, for the first of two days of lower-level talks led by Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen and U.S. Treasury undersecretary David Malpass. On the second day of their negotiations, a second tranche of tit-for-tat tariffs will raise the value of taxed goods between the two countries to $50 billion — but that’s not even the main reason expectations are low. The Financial Times reports (paywall):

“In private conversations, Beijing officials said that what they see as Mr Trump’s constant provocations — such as his recent threat to target additional Chinese exports worth $200bn with tariffs of up to 25 per cent— have made it extremely difficult for them to offer conciliatory gestures… ‘We are not optimistic because we don’t think Trump is willing to compromise,’ one Chinese official told the Financial Times…”

The talks, the FT says, are focusing on:

  • “A list of more than 140 specific demands originally drafted by the Trump administration for the first round of trade talks in May.”
  • The list includes items like “the rapid approval of applications by Mastercard and Visa to enter China’s domestic payments market — and JPMorgan’s plans to take a majority stake in its Chinese securities joint venture.”
  • “In less confrontational circumstances, [Chinese officials said they] would be willing to either implement or discuss about two-thirds of the demands. They added that the rest, such as opening China’s cloud computing market to foreign companies, is off-limits because of national security and other concerns.”

Yesterday (day 47), Donald Trump himself downplayed expectations for these negotiations. His direct quote: “I don’t anticipate anything coming out of it.”

A strange piece of Chinese propaganda was published, then taken down in the lead up to these negotiations. The South China Morning Post reports:

  • “China’s biggest state broadcaster [CGTN] has produced a short, satirical video mocking the US president that opens with the line: ‘Thanks Mr Trump, you are GREAT!’”
  • The video “sarcastically thanks Trump for helping the rest of the world to ‘bond’ and galvanising China into making economic reforms that helped it lure major foreign investors such as Tesla,” and is “one of the few occasions that state media has personally targeted the US president since the start of the trade war.”
  • It included lines such as, “Thank you for re-instilling in the Chinese a sense of HUMILITY. How can there be enough gratitude for highlighting the foibles of overconfidence and self-congratulation, never a virtue except in your case.”
  • The unusually aggressive video was deleted within 48 hours of its publishing, SCMP notes, “hours before” the current negotiations started.

Other trade war reporting:

Previously in SupChina’s trade war coverage:

Trade war, day 47: ‘No time frame’ for end of dispute, Trump says