Chinese media signals lack of interest in continuing talks

BEIJING • China's state media hinted that there is a lack of interest in resuming trade talks with the United States under the current threat to escalate tariffs, while the government said that stimulus will be stepped up to buttress the domestic economy.

Without new moves which show that the US is sincere, it is meaningless for its officials to come to China and hold trade talks, said the blog Taoran Notes, which was carried by state-run Xinhua news agency and the People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece.

The Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday that it had no information about any US officials coming to Beijing for further talks.

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 20 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 former Commerce Ministry official and diplomat Zhou Xiaoming. "China's stance has become more hardline, and it is in no rush for a deal" because the US approach is extremely repellent and China has no illusions about US sincerity.

Mr Zhou said the Commerce Ministry on Thursday had effectively ruled out talks in the near term.

In comments to the media, Commerce 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 had seriously hurt talks.

Yesterday, China's government said that it will work to counteract the effects of more US tariffs and keep the economy in a "reasonable range". The National Development and Reform Commission is studying the impact of the tariffs and will roll out measures in response when necessary.

GIVE AND TAKE NEEDED

We can't see the US having any substantial sincerity in pushing forward the talks. Rather, it is expanding extreme pressure. If the US ignores the will of the Chinese people, then it probably won't get an effective response from the Chinese side.

TAORAN NOTES, a blog carried by state-run Xinhua news agency and the People's Daily, on the US-China trade talks.

A sharper and more aggressive tone in state media does not rule out short-term progress in trade talks, as rhetoric can be dialled back just as quickly. However, after months of downplaying the dispute with the US and banning the phrase "trade war", the new strident tone of coverage is striking.

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", according to Taoran Notes, citing Mr Trump's steps this week to curb Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies.

"We can't see the US having 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."

The blog reiterated that China's three main concerns for a deal are tariff removal, achievable purchase plans and a balanced agreement text, as first revealed by Vice-Premier Liu He. They mark the official stance as much as the will of the Chinese public, it wrote.

"If anyone thinks the Chinese side is just bluffing, that will be the most significant misjudgment" since the Korean War, said Taoran Notes.

The 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.

"The trade war can't bring China down. It will only harden us to grow stronger," it said.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming said in an article in the Evening Standard that China does not want a trade war, but will fight its corner.

"A sound and stable economic partnership between the US and China is important for not only the two countries, but also the world economy," he said.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, XINHUA

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'Chinese media signals lack of interest in continuing talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe