- China’s state media is putting a positive spin on the very temporary deal struck to delay any trade war intensification between President’s Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the weekend’s G20 summit.
- While a 90-day ceasefire on new tariffs to allow for trade negotiations does help take the sting out of the strained relations between the US and China, it also saves face for both leaders, particularly Xi.
- State media have been able to credit Xi with stepping in to save the day, just as the US-China trade conflict began to look a lot more like a full-blown trade war.
Chinese state media is breathing an official and collective sigh of relief on behalf of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) following the temporary deal struck between President Donald Trump and Xi Jinping over the weekend at the G20 summit in Argentina.
While a 90-day ceasefire on new tariffs to allow for trade negotiations not only takes the sting out of the strained relations between the US and China, it also saves the Chinese leadership from what would have been a potentially intolerable embarrassment to its all-powerful leader on a spotlit world stage.
Instead, state media have been able to credit Xi with stepping in to save the day, just as the US-China trade conflict began to look a lot more like a full-blown trade war.
Dr Kevin Carrico, lecturer in Chinese Studies in Macquarie University, told Business Insider that Xi is staring down pressures that no other Chinese leader has had to face in decades.
“International condemnation of [Xi’s] concentration camp system in Xinjiang, growing hints of a potential economic downturn, and even questions within China about the wisdom of his response to the trade war and his leadership as a whole,” Carrico said. “To use Trump’s language, he is not winning.”
“And this is precisely why he needs to portray this as a win,” Carrico said of state media’s rallying behind its leader.
State media described the meeting between the leaders as “frank and friendly”
Chinese state media were very quick to paint the 90-day window of certainty as a total success, calling it a “breakthrough,” “a new era” and a “win-win.”
State-run Xinhua News Agency described the meeting as taking place in “a frank and friendly atmosphere.”
According to Xinhua, Xi and Trump exchanged in-depth views and “ultimately reached an important consensus.”
“Both sides agreed to expand cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit, manage their differences on the basis of mutual respect, and jointly promote Sino-US relations based on coordination, cooperation and stability,” it noted with its familiar tone of reassurance.
China Global Television Network described the meeting as heralding a new era and presenting Xi as setting the tone in negotiations.
Trump, CGTN noted, expressed enthusiasm at the start of the meeting that they would achieve “something great” on trade for both countries.
China Daily gushed that international experts applauded President Xi’s address at the G20 summit for promoting multilateralism, cooperation and free trade just as the world is facing a “surge in unilateralism and protectionism.”
The Global Times, a party-aligned tabloid, wrote in an op-ed that the agreement was of “momentous significance.”
In a telling nod to its readers that even Xi can’t win every little discussion with a wholly unpredictable negotiating partner, the Global Times said, cautioning that there may be up and downs to come.
“The Chinese public needs to keep in mind that China-US trade negotiations fluctuate.”
“It is my great honour to be working with President Xi,” is another Trump statement that also found broad support across state media.
Xi brought in an impressive lineup
A reflection of how seriously the Chinese side took the weekend’s summit is the who’s who list of top CCP officials flanking president Xi in his talks with Trump, which were ultimately less face-to-face and more a meeting of many minds.
The list included some high-ranking names: Xi’s protege and General Secretary of the CCP Ding Xuexiang, Vice Premier and respected economist Liu He, Director of the CCP’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Chairman of the powerful National Development & Reform Commission He Lifeng.
White House trade adviser and China hawk Peter Navarro was reportedly at the dinner with Xi and his top cadres.
Of course, the US could still go ahead with the 25% tariff increase if both sides fail to come to an agreement within the 90 days.
But it seems more likely that Xi and Trump’s teams have put a pin in further escalating an already tense trade stand-off in favour of letting each side search for common ground, including a sought after agreement for Beijing to come back and buy a “substantial” amount of soy beans.
Trump added that if unless China could find a way to tilt the balance of trade power more favourably towards US businesses, hostilities will resume in January.
Still, the White House said the bilateral talks in Buenos Aires on Saturday, were “highly successful”.
Trump agreed to hold off on plans to increase in tariffs on $US200 billion worth of Chinese imports, while China agreed to begin negotiations on “forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cybertheft, services and agriculture,” according to the White House.
Nevertheless, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi hailed the discussions as “profound,” remarking the meeting had set a new course in bilateral relations.
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