China not interested in trade talks with US for now: State media

Officials and pedestrians outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on March 12, 2019. The Communist Party's People's Daily described China’s determination to protect its national interests and dignity as being as “firm as a boulder”. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - China may have no interest in continuing trade negotiations with the United States now, as it sees little "sincerity" in US President Donald Trump's recent approach, according to commentaries run by state media outlets on Friday (May 17).

If the US doesn't make any new moves that truly show sincerity, then it is meaningless for its officials to come to China and have trade talks, according to Taoran Notes, a WeChat blog run by state-owned Economic Daily.

The article was later carried by state-run Xinhua news agency and the People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece.

The US has been talking about wanting to continue the negotiations, but in the meantime, it has been playing "little tricks to disrupt the atmosphere", it wrote, citing Mr Trump's steps this week to curb Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies.

"We can't see the US has any substantial sincerity in pushing forward the talks. Rather, it is expanding extreme pressure," the blog wrote.

"If the US ignores the will of the Chinese people, then it probably won't get an effective response from the Chinese side," it added.

The blog reiterated tariff removal, achievable purchase plans and a balanced agreement text as China's three main concerns, which were first revealed by Vice-Premier Liu He.

They mark the official stance as much as the will of the Chinese public, it wrote.

"In addition, if anyone thinks the Chinese side is just bluffing, that will be the most significant misjudgment since (Korean War)," it said.

Started in August 2015, Taoran Notes initially published articles on a wide range of topics, from book reviews to commentary on the Federal Reserve's policy. But since October 2018, it has almost exclusively followed the development of the Sino-US trade negotiations.

The indications that negotiations are paused will focus attention on the next opportunity for President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump to meet - at the Group of Twenty meeting in Japan next month. Their meeting in Argentina in December last year put negotiations back on track, only for them to fall apart again this month in Washington.

"If the US doesn't make concessions in key issues, there is little point for China to resume talks," said Mr Zhou Xiaoming, a former commerce ministry official and diplomat. "China's stance has become more hard-line and it's in no rush for a deal" because the US approach is extremely repellent and China has no illusions about US sincerity, he said.

According to Mr Zhou, the commerce ministry spokesman on Thursday effectively ruled out talks in the near term. In comments to the media, ministry spokesman Gao Feng said that China's three major concerns need to be addressed before any deal can be reached, adding that the unilateral escalation of tensions in Washington recently had seriously hurt talks.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this week that American officials "most likely will go to Beijing at some point" in near future to continue trade talks, before later saying he has "no plans yet to go to China".

The Communist Party's People's Daily also wrote in a front page commentary that the trade war with the US will only make China stronger and will never bring the country to its knees.

In a stridently nationalistic commentary, the ruling party's official newspaper described China's determination to protect its national interests and dignity as being as "firm as a boulder".

"The trade war can't bring China down. It will only harden us to grow stronger," it said. "What kind of storms have not been seen, what bumps have not experienced for China, with its more than 5,000 years of civilisation? In the face of hurricanes, the nearly 1.4 billion Chinese people have confidence and stamina."

China's confidence comes from the spirit of its people's perseverance and endless struggle, it added, citing major disasters like floods, Sars and 2008's massive Sichuan earthquake.

"From the Opium War to the Sino-Japanese War to the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea - disaster and misery have come one after the other, tempering the Chinese people, pushing Chinese society to forge ahead in setbacks and move forward in adversity."

Huawei's Hisilicon unit, which purchases US semiconductors for its parent, has been secretly developing back-up products for years in case Huawei was one day unable to obtain the advanced chips and technology it buys from the United States, its president told staff in a letter on Friday.

"Today, the wheel of destiny has turned and we have arrived at this extreme and dark moment, as a super-nation ruthlessly disrupts the world's technology and industry system," according to the letter.

Chinese state television has this week invoked a war theme, focusing on the 1950-1953 conflict between the two Koreas that saw Chinese troops back North Korea while the South was supported by the United States.

On Thursday, China Central Television replaced a programme about the ongoing Asian Film and TV Week with a 1964 Chinese movie on the Korean War, "Heroic Sons and Daughters."

On Friday night, the broadcaster will screen yet another Chinese war movie classic, "Battle on Shangganling Mountain", the scene of a large-scale battle in North Korea, according to a post on its social media account.

The post received widespread approval from Chinese social media users, with one even asking when the broadcaster would air a movie on the attack on Pearl Harbor. "Defeat the American imperialists!" another wrote.

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