BEIJING/SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China’s top newspaper rebutted growing criticism in government circles that Beijing should have taken a lower profile to head off its trade war with the United States, saying on Friday (Aug 10) that, like an elephant, China cannot hide its size and strength.
The growing trade conflict is causing rifts within China’s Communist Party, with some critics saying that an overly nationalistic Chinese stance may have hardened the US position, sources close to the government have said.
The ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily 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 policy-making 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 in a lengthy commentary.
“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 paper said. “The meaning is – as long as China caves in, the United States 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 commentary said.
History showed that the US had always gone after countries, such as the former Soviet Union, Britain or Japan, that were perceived as threatening its global dominance. That had brought China into the firing line with its enormous and growing economy, the People’s Daily 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.
“Such a large size, such a heavy thing, can’t be hidden by‘being low key’, just like an elephant can’t hide behind a sapling,” it said.
The paper continued, saying that growing trade tensions between the US and China are motivated by fears that China is now the top challenger to Washington's global hegemony.
China said this week that it would slap additional 25 per cent tariffs on US$16 billion (S$21.8 billion) worth of US imports in retaliation against levies on Chinese goods imposed by the United States.
The move was the latest round in escalating tit-for-tat trade tensions between the two countries, with US President Donald Trump aiming to pressure Beijing into making concessions.
In the editorial, People's Daily said 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 editorial 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 United States were causing rifts within China's Communist Party, with some critics saying that an overly nationalistic Chinese stance may have hardened the US position.