Donald Trump is itching to surrender to China’

Access Archive

1. ‘Donald Trump is itching to surrender to China’ — opinions and op-eds

With Donald Trump returning to a Cohen-scandalized Washington without a North Korea deal, while Pakistan and India decide what to do after scrambling jets to attack or provoke each other, it’s a slow China news day.

But there are some strong opinions in the op-eds and editorial pages of the world’s press. Here is a summary of recent writing on China that takes an angle or expresses a strong opinion:

“Donald Trump is itching to surrender to China on trade,” says Edward Luce in the Financial Times (paywall):

We have seen this streaming drama before. President Donald Trump has a strong impulse — say to withdraw US troops from Syria, or declare an emergency on the Mexican border. He reluctantly submits to contrary advice. The cycle repeats, rinses and washes a few times before Mr Trump loses patience. Then he does what he always wanted — trusts his instincts above those around him. That is what is now happening on China. Mr Trump wants a trade deal that will buoy the stock markets. His advisers want to hang tough in talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, even at the expense of short-term US growth. It is a matter of time before Mr Trump overrules them. The question is how much face America will lose when he does.

“U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has underestimated China’s resilience and strategic resolve,” argues Stephen Roach, former chief economist of Morgan Stanley and chair of the firm’s Asian operations on Channel NewsAsia / Project Syndicate.

With the Chinese economy slowing, the US believes that China is hurting and desperate for an end to the trade war.

But with ample policy space to address the current slowdown, China’s leadership has no need to abandon its longer-term strategy. While a cosmetic deal focused on bilateral trade appears to be in the offing, the sharp contrast between the two economies’ fundamental underpinnings points to a very different verdict regarding who has the upper hand.

You can hear a Sinica Podcast interview with Stephen Roach here.

“A settlement with Huawei rather than cutting it off is in the U.S.’ best interests,” says former vice chair of JPMorgan Chase International, and erstwhile unofficial U.S. representative to Taiwan as director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Douglas H. Paal in the South China Morning Post. The SCMP summarized his argument with this blurb:

As American allies like the UK and Germany seem unlikely to ban the Chinese telecoms giant, the US should capitalize on its current position of strength to negotiate an agreement that constrains Huawei’s ability to pose a security threat.

A China-U.S. trade deal is likely to be only a truce writes the editorial board of the Financial Times.

What markets, investors and many companies underestimate is the extent to which the US and China have entered a new epoch of strategic competition that will engulf all aspects of the relationship. That will have significant implications for supply chains throughout Asia, and will bring economic and market volatility to a region that has been the main driver of the global economy for the past decade.

“China’s entrepreneurs are wary of its future” is the title of a piece by Li Yuan in the New York Times (paywall):

Chen Tianyong, a Chinese real estate developer in Shanghai, boarded a flight to Malta last month with no plans to return anytime soon.

After landing, Mr. Chen, a former judge and lawyer, shared on social media a 28-page article explaining himself. “Why I Left China,” read the headline, “An Entrepreneur’s Farewell Admonition.”

“China’s economy is like a giant ship heading to the precipice,” Mr. Chen wrote. “Without fundamental changes, it’s inevitable that the ship will be wrecked and the passengers will die.”

“My friends,” he urged, “if you can leave, please make arrangements as early as possible.”

It is unclear how many people saw the article before it disappeared from China’s heavily censored internet.

China’s entrepreneurs “have never felt more threatened,” writes Henny Sender in a similar piece in the Financial Times (paywall):

After decades of economic liberalization that fueled the rise of the private sector, Chinese politics and economics have swung dramatically back to a more interventionist model. It is again the party, rather than the market, that allocates resources and dictates what not long ago was left to companies to decide.

“A certain British politician’s hyping up of the ‘China threat’ in a recent speech struck a discordant note with the mainstream view in the U.K. that the country has a strong and constructive relationship with China.” So says Liú Xiǎomíng 刘晓明, the Chinese ambassador to Britain, in the Guardian. He continues:

It has led me to think about how much could be learned from the world-class concerts by London’s leading symphony orchestra that I have attended, the beauty of which comes from the harmony of various sounds and the coordination between the players.

If the China-UK relationship were compared to a symphony, its success would depend on close coordination between the two countries and a firm resistance to interruptions and noises.

The “certain British politician” is Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson. The Guardian earlier reported that Williamson “was at the center of a growing cabinet row on [February 16] as senior government sources blamed him for offending the Chinese and causing the cancellation of a crucial trade visit to Beijing by the chancellor, Philip Hammond.”

Liu stays with the musical analogies throughout his piece:

  • In the “symphony” of China-U.K. relations, “mutual benefit, not the pursuit of a zero-sum game, creates consonance.”

  • “The symphony of China-U.K. relations should also play a rising crescendo of mutual learning and cooperation.”

  • China and the U.K. “rely on mutual respect and trust to keep us in tune, and keep out the noise of enmity and confrontation.”

  • China and the U.K. “create a China-U.K. golden era: a symphony both beautiful and harmonious.”

Music is a natural metaphor for a Party member. The term main melody (主旋律 zhǔ xuánlǜ) was first used in propaganda in the 1980s, and remains a common phrase in Party directives. It urges that everyone in society, the media, and the arts sing the “main melody,” which is composed and conducted by the Communist Party.  

This is not an opinion piece, but a report about opinions at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual event for the American right wing. This year’s event is going on right now. Politico reports:

Last year, the title of a panel at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference posed a simple question — “What is the Biggest Threat to the U.S.?” — and offered three options: China, Russia or rogue states like North Korea.

Now, the results are in. “China, the global menace,” warns the title of one panel at this year’s conference. “21st Century terminator: How China is using 5G and AI to take over the world,” warns another. A third China-focused panel borrows its title from a book by Winston Churchill about the runup to World War II. The words “Russia,” “Iran,” “North Korea” and “terrorism” do not appear on this year’s agenda.

2. Huawei and trade war updates

There are no big stories, but here are a few reports from the last 24 hours:

U.S.-China trade war

Chinese state media continues its optimistic tone. The People’s Daily on February 27 published a story (in Chinese), originally reported by Xinhua on February 25, with the title “American business council expects that the U.S. and China will soon reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” featuring quotes from the US-China Business Council president, Craig Allen (recently interviewed on the Sinica Podcast).

Meanwhile, the “U.S. Trade Representative’s office said on Wednesday it would move to formally suspend a scheduled tariff increase on Chinese goods ‘until further notice’ following President Donald Trump’s decision to delay his Friday deadline for a U.S.-China trade deal amid progress in their talks,” according to Reuters.



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—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief




  • Misbehaving snowbirds
    Thieving ‘migratory birds’ from northeast China ruffle feathers on tropical island of Hainan / SCMP
    “Six senior citizens have been detained for stealing 100 kg (220 lb) of mangoes on the tropical Chinese province of Hainan in an incident that has fueled the long-standing tension between locals and pensioners from the northeast. Every winter, hundreds of thousands of pensioners fly from their hometowns in the freezing northeast to Hainan to take advantage of the island’s warm weather.
    They are called ‘migratory birds’ [海南候鸟老人 hòuniǎo lǎorén — literally ‘migratory bird old people’] by Hainanese who generally do not welcome their arrival, blaming them for using up too many public resources.”

  • Deepfake videos
    Chinese ‘deepfake’ creator says videos meant to educate public / Sixth Tone
    “The creator of several viral videos using artificial intelligence to superimpose one Chinese actress’s face over another’s has said that he produced the clips to warn people about the technology’s potential pitfalls…
    …Some netizens argue that the face-swapping technology could make women more vulnerable to harassment.”


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Snow day motoring

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Do you have fresh photos from the streets of China? We would love to see them and share them with our readers! Send your snapshots and captions to