Blog on US-China trade war by Shenzhen academic posing as US professor goes viral in China

Commentary on how China can handle US President Donald Trump gets more than 100,000 page views

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 7:25am

Commentary on the US-China trade war by an apparently fictional US professor went viral among Chinese internet users on Wednesday, with the blog attracting more than 100,000 page views.

The WeChat blog “was written by a seasoned US international strategist named Professor John Landers”, according to its introduction. It contains several tactics the Chinese government can use to handle the challenge posed by US President Donald Trump.

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According to the blog, Landers “is son of a former member of the US Productivity Commission under Reagan’s term, a scholar with a sense of justice. He recently made a non-public report on how the developed countries controlled the world, especially on President Trump’s statement on trade sanctions against China on June 15, and offered suggestions on how to deal with it from the perspective of a western scholar”.

Readers, however, could not find any information on the professor. But they did discover that the Productivity Commission is an official organisation in Australia, not the United States.

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Blog by “US Professor John Landers”

Further investigation led the readers to Zhang Meng, who teaches economics at the Harbin Institute of Technology in Shenzhen. His WeChat shows he “created” Landers.

When contacted by the South China Morning Post, Zhang said the blog “does not have much to do” with him. “The readers should try to understand the argument, rather than spending time verifying who the professor is, or who drafted the WeChat blog,” he said.

Bloggers with big followings can attract lucrative advertisement deals in China. A blogger with 100,000 followers can charge more than US$2,000 for an advertisement, while those with more than 1 million followers can charge US$20,000, according to marketing platform Captiv8.

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The Landers blog analyses the statement made by Trump on June 15, in which the US imposes 25 per cent duties on US$50 billion worth of Chinese goods. “President Trump is the smartest western leader, who are best at negotiations …” the blog said.

“Judging from recent diplomatic policies, President Trump has accepted the fact that China has risen, and shifted the strategy to handle China from “containment” to “competition”. This poses a greater challenge to the latter,” it said.

The blog urges China to never underestimate Trump, and that it should adapt to new ways of thinking, while making use of the its own resources. “ZTE should not become a drag for China,” it said.