SHANGHAI • Growing trade tensions between the United States and China are motivated by fears that China is now the top challenger to Washington's global hegemony, the official Communist Party newspaper The People's Daily said yesterday.
In a lengthy commentary, the newspaper said that China's rapid economic growth and its position at the centre stage of global trade is the "fundamental fact" that should be considered when looking at frictions between the world's two biggest economies, with Beijing emerging as an "unprecedented opponent" for the United States.
"No matter what China does, in the eyes of the United States, China's development has already 'damaged the supremacy of the United States'," the People's Daily said.
"Against this kind of 'opponent', the United States must adopt two methods - first, use the opponent to encourage itself and exhort mass political support for 'making America great again', and second, curb the opponent's supremacy at every level," it added.
The commentary was responding to claims the tough trade measures implemented by the United States were provoked by China's "strategic overconfidence".
Sources close to the government told Reuters that frictions with the US were causing rifts within China's Communist Party, with some critics saying that an overly nationalistic Chinese stance may have hardened the US position.
The commentary took direct aim at those it said were naysayers in an unusually public rebuttal to a debate that has been happening largely behind closed doors in policymaking circles in China.
While condemnation of the White House has come at home and abroad, there are those who have spread "specious" views on the Internet, it said.
"One of these puts the blame on China, saying that 'China's strategy is too confident and high-profile, incurring a one-two punch from the United States'," it said.
"Another of these criticises China, saying that it shouldn't strike back," the newspaper said.
"The meaning is - as long as China caves in, the US will raise its hand high in mercy, and the Sino-US trade war won't happen."
However, it was absolutely not the case that China brought this upon itself, the People's Daily commentary said.
History showed that the United States had always gone after countries, such as the former Soviet Union, Britain or Japan, that were perceived as threatening its global dominance, it said.
That had brought China into the firing line with its enormous and growing economy, the People's Daily commentary said.
"After more than a century of hard work, China has returned to the centre of the world stage, and this is the basic fact we must observe in the China-US trade friction," the paper wrote.
The commentary said that like an elephant, China cannot hide its size and strength.
China's state media has stepped up its criticism of the US in recent days.
On Thursday, it accused the US of a "mobster mentality" in its move to implement additional tariffs on Chinese goods, and warned Beijing had all the necessary means to fight back.
On Monday, the overseas edition of the People's Daily newspaper singled out US President Donald Trump's trade policies, saying he was starring in his own "street fighter-style deceitful drama of extortion and intimidation".