China State Media Berates U.S. for ‘Reneging’ on Trade Promises

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese state media has issued a flood of criticism in recent days at President Donald Trump’s surprise escalation of tariffs, even raising the prospect that Beijing may consider cutting off engagement on trade.

The Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily on Monday carried a commentary denouncing what it called Trump’s recent assault on the global trading system, including pressuring the World Trade Organization to crack down on economies declaring themselves developing nations. It followed the newspaper’s weekend article accusing the U.S. of “reneging on promises” after Trump said he would impose 10% additional tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese exports.

People’s Daily also published a Monday analysis that said a tougher U.S. policy against China would backfire, citing an open letter to the Washington Post signed by 187 former officials, scholars and business people.

Trump’s abrupt escalation of the trade war between the world’s largest economies last week came shortly after the two sides restarted high-level face-to-face talks in Shanghai. Bureaucrats in Beijing were stunned by Trump’s announcement, according to Chinese officials who’ve been involved in the talks, and Beijing has pledged to respond if the U.S. insists on adding the extra tariffs.

The Chinese government has asked state-owned enterprises to suspend imports of U.S. agricultural products after Trump’s move ratcheted up tensions, people familiar with the situation said.

Chinese state media outlets have since Friday interviewed officials or cited trade data in order to refute Trump’s assertion that China hasn’t followed through on its commitments to buy American agricultural products and crack down on the illegal production and smuggling of fentanyl.

State broadcaster CCTV used a prime time show to air a series of commentaries lashing out at the U.S.’s lack of sincerity, and warned that maximum pressure won’t work.

Companies won’t rush buying American products as the U.S. wields the “big stick” of tariffs, People’s Daily said in its Sunday article.

China is willing to actively expand imports from countries including the U.S. based on what the domestic market needs, and has agreed to address the proper U.S. concerns, the newspaper said -- reiterating the government’s official stance that all additional tariffs should be eventually removed.

“The most talented director could not make such a dramatic plot,” Taoran Notes, a blog run by the state-owned Economic Daily, wrote on Friday. The flip-flop would have “substantial negative impact” on China-U.S. trade talks, it said, asking whether China should continue purchasing agricultural goods from the U.S. and if talks are still necessary.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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