Breaking a virtual silence ahead of this week’s anticipated signing of the phase one trade deal with the United States, a social media account linked to the Chinese government has issued a note of caution by saying that the “trade war is not over yet” and that it is “just the first round of a game”. Taoran Notes, which is affiliated with the official Economic Daily newspaper that is used by Beijing to manage trade talk expectations, published its first piece for two months on Monday, saying the deal set to be signed in Washington this week is just “the first step to solve a problem”. “We must bear in mind that the trade war is not over yet – the US hasn’t revoked all its tariffs on China and China is still implementing its retaliatory measures. There are still many uncertainties down the road.” It added that the broad meaning of reaching a trade deal is to find an approach to solving China-US disputes in other areas. The US hasn’t revoked all its tariffs on China and China is still implementing its retaliatory measures. There are still many uncertainties down the road Taoran Notes After the two countries announced the agreement of an interim truce in middle of December, China’s Ministry of Commerce finally confirmed on Thursday that Vice-Premier Liu He would travel to Washington on Monday to sign the phase one deal during a three-day trip. Since a late-night press conference on December 13 that confirmed the deal had been agreed, key members of Beijing’s trade negotiation team have not made any public comments, leaving many details and the specific manner of how the deal would be signed being released unilaterally by the US. China has yet to officially confirm the reported amount of its promised imports from the US, even though their American counterparts have talked about these as key parts of the deal. Speaking on Sunday in the US, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reiterated in an interview with Fox News that China has promised to buy US$40 billion to US$50 billion worth of US farm products annually and a total of US$200 billion of US goods over the next two years. There are also reports about the venue and exact timing of the signing ceremony, with The Wall Street Journal suggesting that it will take place in the White House at 11:30pm Eastern time (12.30pm in Hong Kong), with around 200 guests set to be invited including representatives from US trade groups. The Wall Street Journal also reported that China and the US have agreed to restart a comprehensive economic dialogue every six months, led by Liu and Mnuchin. But the major Chinese state media outlets, including the official Xinhua News Agency, the People’s Daily and the CCTV, have been relatively muted over the breakthrough in the 18-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies. While the English version of the Global Times , a newspaper affiliated with the People’s Daily , has reported the interim deal, its Chinese version has remained muted. At the same time, China’s censors have blocked any unauthorised information about the trade deal, including tweets from US President Donald Trump. Overall, the relatively low-key stance reflects the complicated feelings in Beijing about the upcoming phase one deal. On one hand, the ceasefire has been hailed within China as a positive step for its economic outlook and market prospects with the Chinese magazine Caixin writing in an editorial that the deal was “well worth to be congratulated”. But, on the other hand, controversy about the deal, and the process of how China has reached the agreement, remain. The US, and in particular Trump ahead of November’s presidential election, are presenting the deal as a first necessary step towards pressing China into buying more US products to balance bilateral trade and to change some of Beijing’s allegedly “unfair” trade practices. But China is trying to project the deal as a proof that it is able to stop disputes with the US from erupting into confrontations, while downplaying the parts that could be viewed as Beijing’s concessions. false Both Beijing and Washington have confirmed that the text of the agreement will be published after the deal is signed, with Taoran Notes reaffirming a Mofcom statement on December 19, that “after the agreement is officially signed, the contents of the agreement will be announced to the public”. Last week, the South China Morning Post reported that, while Trump had been eager to sign the deal with President Xi Jinping, this was rejected in early November. George Magnus, a research associate at the China Centre at Oxford University, said Xi “probably feels that China made more concessions than he was strictly speaking prepared to offer a few months ago, and comfortable with”. China has largely shelved early-day rhetoric that it “doesn’t want to fight but is not afraid to fight” or that “China will fight to the end” after Beijing decided to make a compromises with the US. [It is unclear] whether China can buy a sufficient amount every quarter, and whether the purchases will push up the prices of US products, and whether China will in turn accept the higher prices Hua Changchun The word “fight” has, in particular, since August largely disappeared from the weekly press conferences by the Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom). Questions, though, still remain if China can honour its promises mentioned so far only by the US regarding purchases of US farm products. Hua Changchun, an economist at brokerage firm Guotai Junan Securities, said that there could be disputes down the road regarding the progress, price and scope of promised purchases, namely “whether China can buy a sufficient amount every quarter, and whether the purchases will push up the prices of US products, and whether China will in turn accept the higher prices”. I’d be surprised in fact if there is a phase two trade deal George Magnus The lack of enthusiasm from Beijing to hail the detailed clauses of the deal set to be signed this week also cast a shadow over the so-called second phase negotiations, which are believed to be focused on forcing Beijing to conduct “structural changes” in its state-led economic growth model. Trump has already said that the next stage of the talks should start and that he intends to visit China. Magnus, the author of Red Flags: Why Xi's China is in Jeopardy, said the phase one deal covers the “low hanging fruit”, but the next stage would include “hard stuff” involving industrial policy, subsidies and state enterprises, sensitive non-tariff barriers and items that touch more closely on sovereignty. “I’d be surprised in fact if there is a phase two trade deal,” Magnus said. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.