Chinese state media plays down trade frictions after talks with US
Party mouthpiece People’s Daily says the ‘clouds are starting to part’ – but the White House calls for ‘immediate attention’ to change the relationship
Chinese state media played down trade frictions with the United States after two days of talks in Beijing failed to break the deadlock, as Washington signalled it would not back down.
A commentary in the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily on Saturday described the talks by saying the “clouds are starting to part and the fog begins to disperse” after more than a month of “wind and rain”.
It said the talks marked a change from the recent tit-for-tat exchanges between Beijing and Washington and sent a positive signal for the global economy.
“China firmly defended its national interests in the face of menacing US protectionism, showed its resolve to never compromise its core interests, and refused America’s sky-high demands,” the commentary said.
But it added: “There is hope that the two nations will move away from confrontation and towards consultation.”
Talks between the trade representatives did not achieve any breakthroughs, and official documents seen by the South China Morning Post outlining demands from both sides indicated the rift was deep. Observers said they were concerned the trade squabbles could escalate.
The US delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left Beijing on Friday afternoon, earlier than expected, without meeting any Chinese leaders. They had been expected to meet President Xi Jinping and Vice-President Wang Qishan during the visit. The Chinese delegation was led by Vice-Premier Liu He.
After the talks wrapped up on Friday, official news agency Xinhua said the countries remained “very divided” on some issues and “more work needed to be done”, but they had agreed to continue communicating and set up “relevant working mechanisms”.
But the White House said in a statement released late on Friday that there was “consensus within the administration that immediate attention is needed to bring changes” to the bilateral trade and investment relationship.
US President Donald Trump tweeted hours later that he would meet his team over the weekend to “determine the results, but it is hard for China in that they have become very spoiled with the US trade wins!”
Nationalist Chinese tabloid Global Times meanwhile said in an editorial on Friday that “the balance is tilting away from a trade war and towards negotiation”.
“It does not make sense any more to play the game of who will blink first,” the editorial said, calling for more discussions to find the common ground needed to make progress.
Finding common ground was also highlighted by People’s Daily, which hoped the talks would push both countries towards “fair, candid, rational and pragmatic communication” so that the trade disputes could be resolved.
The high-level talks followed an exchange of tariff threats after the US accused China of unfair industrial practices and policies based on its investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act. Washington is due to finalise its list of US$50 billion worth of Chinese imports that will be subject to 25 per cent punitive tariffs later this month, and it could slap sanctions on another US$100 billion of products. China has said it would impose the same amount of tariffs on American products including cars, planes and agricultural goods. Restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States are also in the pipeline.