China Says Trump's ‘America First’ Policies Are Hurting U.S.

(Bloomberg) -- The Chinese Communist Party’s top newspaper issued a rare direct criticism of President Donald Trump’s agenda, saying his “America First” policies were hurting his own people and fomenting discontent in the country.

“After more than a year of observing American diplomatic practice, people have seen the United States strides under the slogan ‘America First,’ but the complaints of those Americans who have not felt the benefits of ‘America First’ are growing,” an opinion piece published Thursday in the People’s Daily said. “Bizarrely, U.S. trade policy makers seem to be deaf.”

viThe Chinese-language newspaper is the party’s most high-profile platform for communicating the leadership’s views to its roughly 90 million members. The piece was published on the same day as President Xi Jinping reappeared on the paper’s front page for the first time in 15 days, a sign that party elders had concluded their annual policy retreat in the Yellow Sea resort area of Beidahe.

Xi, who’s facing his own political pressures to look tough, has vowed to respond blow-for-blow to U.S. tariffs levied on billions of dollars of Chinese goods. He’s already imposed retaliatory duties targeting Trump’s base including Iowa soybeans and Kentucky bourbon, leading the administration to seek $12 billion of relief for farmers.

‘Small Bills’

“The U.S. government may not be interested in the small bills of ordinary Americans,” said “Zhong Sheng,” a pen name used by the paper’s international news section. “But the question is, how much patience do American policy makers have for making scientific calculations, even on a national scale?”

The pseudonym can be read as both the “Voice or China” or “Sounding the Alarm Bell.” It’s often “used to signal the Chinese Communist Party’s warnings to other countries and to attack foreign opponents,” said David Gitter, president of the Center for Advanced China Research, a Washington think tank.

“Each Zhong Sheng article is a collective work of the People’s Daily International Department to represent the voice of People’s Daily on the most important international issues of the day,” Gitter said.

‘Breaking Rules’

Still, Thursday’s piece stopped of criticizing Trump by name. The only mention of the president came in a quote of an Aug. 10 statement from the Democratic National Committee saying that U.S. workers hadn’t benefited from the “Trump economy.”

State media criticism of Trump policies has increased with trade tensions. The People’s Daily has complained about what it calls the president’s “unilateral actions and trade protectionism” and on Aug. 8 published a commentary headlined, “The Crux of America’s Trade War is Breaking the Rules.”

“Now ‘America First’ is becoming an ‘American privilege’ that transcends all international rules,” the paper said at the time.

Thursday’s commentary “intrinsically sends the message that Trump will have to blink first” in the trade war, Gitter said. “‘Zhong Sheng’ specifically has been used a handful of times to address the trade war. We can expect it to be used again, and perhaps with more inflammatory language, if the Trump administration stays its course.”

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