Xi Jinping’s promise to open China’s markets? It’s ‘nothing to do’ with Trump’s trade war threats, say Beijing officials
Commerce Ministry joins official chorus of officials trying to dispel the impression that China’s leader bowed to pressure from US
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to further open up its market to foreign investors has “nothing to do” with the recent tit-for-tat dispute with the United States, a spokesman for China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday.
US President Donald Trump has said he was “very thankful” for Xi’s pledges in a speech at the Boao Forum on Tuesday, but the authorities in Beijing have been trying to undo the impression that they were bowing to pressure from Washington.
On Wednesday Geng Shuang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, delivered a similar message, saying the measures announced by Xi – including better protection of intellectual property rights and reduced tariff on cars – were not related to the looming trade war.
Xi’s speech on Tuesday, in which he reiterated his support for globalisation and pledged to open China’s financial sector and allow foreign ownership of car factories, was seen in Washington as an olive branch.
Trump tweeted after Xi’s speech: “Very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words on tariffs and automobile barriers … also, his enlightenment on intellectual property and technology transfers. We will make great progress together!”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday that the US was “encouraged” by Xi’s words, although Washington wants to see “concrete actions from China”.
Very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words on tariffs and automobile barriers...also, his enlightenment on intellectual property and technology transfers. We will make great progress together!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2018
However, China’s two most powerful ministries, along with its state-owned mouthpieces, argued that China’s decisions had been made on its own terms and said it was wrong to perceive this as making compromises.
State media is also telling its domestic audience that China is not yielding to the US.
“China’s reform and opening up is entirely autonomous, and it is gradually expanding and progressing according to its own timetable and road,” People’s Daily said in a commentary published on Tuesday.
On Thursday Gao Feng, the Commerce Ministry spokesman, said there were no negotiations between China and the US “at any level”.
Gao also said that Washington had not shown any sincerity about talks. “It’s impossible for China to engage in any negotiation when [the US] is unilaterally threatening us,” he added.
Trump said this month that his administration might levy punitive tariffs on an additional US$100 billion worth of Chinese imports on top of an earlier threat of a similar levy on US$50 billion worth of goods.
China has responded with punitive tariffs on US$50 billion worth of US imports, including soybeans, pork and aircraft.
The authorities in Beijing have also responded in kind to America’s rhetorical attacks.
“The US shall not threaten China with the sticks of unilateralism and protectionism,” Gao said.
“China has made full preparations, and if the US takes any action to escalate the situation, China will resolutely fight back without any hesitation.”