Robert Lighthizer, U.S. trade representative, center left, meets with Liu He, China’s vice premier and director of the central leading group of the Chinese Communist Party, center right, during trade talks between the U.S. and China in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg)

Chinese State Media Blames U.S. for Setback in Trade Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese state media blamed the U.S. for a lack of progress in trade talks while emphasizing China’s economic resilience, as the world awaits details on measures Beijing has promised in retaliation for the U.S. raising tariffs on Chinese goods.

People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of China’s Communist Party, said in a front-page commentary that the U.S. should take full responsibility for the setbacks because it went back on its word and imposed more levies on Chinese products. “That cast a shadow on the trade talks and directly led to the fruitless outcome” of trade discussions, the paper said.

The Global Times, an English-language web-based tabloid produced under the auspices of the People’s Daily, posted a similar editorial late Sunday local time. It described “the fierce U.S. offensive” against China as “irrational” and hurtful to the U.S. economy. China “is willing to reach a deal” on trade but will “never make concessions on issues of principle, nor trade its core interests,” it said.

Talks between the U.S. and China ended without resolution last week with the White House imposing a second round of punitive duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to vow retaliation. In a wide-ranging interview with Chinese media after talks in Washington ended Friday, Vice Premier Liu He articulated Beijing’s bottom line in detail for the first time since negotiations began.

In order to reach an agreement the U.S. must remove all extra tariffs, set targets for Chinese purchases of goods in line with real demand, and ensure that the text of the deal is “balanced” to ensure the “dignity” of both nations, Liu said. His conditions were echoed in local media coverage on Monday, including an analysis by state-run news agency Xinhua.

More Voices

In a rare move, the People’s Daily also published another commentary on its front page regarding the same topic. The article written by Guo Jiping, a pen name used by the newspaper to comment on international matters, said that no challenge can slow China’s advance.

Repeated trade attacks by the U.S. not only caused damage to its national reputation, but also “severely disrupted” the bilateral trade talks, the commentary said. The Commerce Ministry posted the same article on its Weibo account later on Monday.

The Financial News, a paper published by the central bank, ran two front-page features -- a Xinhua story from Saturday citing U.S. business associations on the cost of the trade war to American consumers, and another on the resilience of China’s economy.

Tariff increases will do bigger damage to American companies while hurting both sides, the state news agency Xinhua said in a another story on Sunday, citing Gao Lingyun, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Besides multiple stories analyzing the impact of the trade war, Xinhua also ran a commentary late Sunday, saying that China can overcome any difficulties as long as it remains confident. The article listed a number of reasons for the nation’s confidence, including strong leadership, a superior socialism system and a united people.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said the Trump administration would on Monday release details of its plans for tariffs on an additional $300 billion in imports from China, setting the process in motion for Trump to deliver on the threat to hammer all Chinese trade.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times, said on Twitter that the imposition of those tariffs would mark the shift from a “comprehensive U.S. offensive to a stalemate” that will be a battle of wills. “China’s political system will ensure we won’t lose,” he said.

Response Awaited

While the Communist Party hasn’t yet announced what steps it would take, the commentaries are probably the first part of its response, since state media in China is tightly controlled and the government dictates what can be covered.

“If they weren’t being seriously provoked, the Chinese people would not favor any trade war. However, once the country is strategically coerced, nothing is unbearable for China in order to safeguard its sovereignty and dignity,” the Global Times said in Sunday’s editorial.

“If the U.S. is to play a roller coaster-style thriller game, it will bear the consequences.”

In an earlier editorial, the Global Times said the U.S. has made a fundamental misjudgment, that is, believing China is “unilaterally benefiting from China-U.S. economic and trade relations.”

On Saturday, President Donald Trump said in tweets that it would be wise for China to “act now” to finish a trade deal with the U.S., warning that “far worse” terms would be offered after what he predicted would be his certain re-election in 2020.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.