5 years ago

A hard-to-confirm call, a more anxious Trump

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Trump is the protagonist wherever he goes. This is not only because he is the president of the United States, but also because the “media darling” always exposes big news.

During the G7 summit with France on August 26, Trump said that Chinese officials called the US side on the evening of 25th to convey their willingness to return to the negotiating table. However, when the reporter confirmed the speech to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Beijing a few hours later, the answer was “I have never heard of the weekend call mentioned by the US”; Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Times, also sent a message on Twitter, saying that “I understand that senior negotiators in China and the United States have not talked in the near future.”

The reply of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hu Xijin’s statement made Trump and the US officials the object of continuous questioning by reporters the next day. In this regard, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin responded only by “repeated discussions between the two sides”, and Trump no longer responded directly, but continued to insist that the two sides had “massive calls”, “I I don’t want to talk about the phone. We made a call. We received a call from the top.”

The reason why Chinese and American high-level talks have been paid attention is because the tariff wars between China and the United States have entered an unprecedented field.

Hard to confirm call

First, on August 1, the second day of the 12th round of trade negotiations between China and the United States in Shanghai, Trump announced that it would have added 25% of the tariff on Chinese goods worth US$250 billion. From September 1st, a 10% tariff will be imposed on the remaining US$300 billion worth of Chinese goods;

In this regard, China decided to add a 5% or 10% tariff to US$75 billion worth of US goods on a regular basis on August 23, just before the opening of the G7 summit on the eve of the G7 summit. US$100 million of US goods are subject to a 25% tariff);

In view of this, Trump announced on August 24 that it will add another 5% tariff on all goods to China: that is, from October 1, it will impose a 30% tariff on Chinese goods worth US$200 billion; From September 1st, 15% tariffs will be imposed on Chinese goods worth US$300 billion (some of which will be subject to the August 13 decision and lag behind December 15).

It can be seen that whether it is the decision to impose tariffs on August 1 and August 24, or Trump’s statement on the 26th, it highlights that he is “outspoken” and does not hide his anger.

So, did the Chinese and American officials have a phone call on trade issues last weekend? According to the US side, it is not excluded that Trump may exaggerate his own words. According to the Chinese side, at least China and the United States do not have high-level calls, and the lower-level calls are also reached at the “Shanghai talks” at the end of July. Within the scope of consensus: The two countries agreed to maintain deputy ministerial level communication during August and prepare for the 13th round of senior negotiators’ meeting in September.

Taking into account these signs and the background of recent China-US negotiations, it can be assessed that there should be no “high-level dialogue” between China and the United States as described by Trump. However, this is hard to be confirmed by the outside world, and it is not important. What is really important is that this drama reflects the current situation of China-US trade negotiations.

Looking at the China-US negotiation process in the last two or three weeks, people can find some signs:

China’s position turned hard and cold

First of all, China’s position is turning hard. Compared with the previous Chinese initiative to propose procurement plans for agricultural products such as soybeans in the United States, what we have seen recently is that China has cancelled the purchase agreement reached by the “Shanghai Talks” after the United States imposed tariffs in the United States. The previously suspended tariffs on US auto parts were restored.

On August 27th, Bloomberg quoted sources as saying that China, the largest importer of soybeans, has begun to purchase South American soybeans next year. Although this has only just begun more than a month ago, buyers have increased their interest in soybeans shipped in February and March next year. This early-staged purchase means that China is becoming more prosperous in China and the United States. Trade disputes are prepared, and they are reluctant to pay more attention to the United States.

At the same time, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has become more and more tough on the issues concerning China and the United States. Even though Vice-President Liu He said in Chongqing on August 26, “We are willing to resolve the issue through consultation and cooperation with a calm attitude and resolutely oppose the escalation of the trade war. We believe that the escalation of the trade war is not conducive to China and to the United States,” This does not mean that China’s attitude is softened. After all, Liu He also stressed that the Chinese government has sufficient macro-policy tools to ensure that the economic fundamentals are good.

It should be noted that since the beginning of the Beidaihe meeting in early August, Beijing has taken a tougher stance on many issues such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United States. Recalling the news of the 2018 Beidaihe Conference, “The CCP’s veteran rumors to the current leader and suggesting a more moderate attitude to contact with the US.” After more than a year of negotiations, the CCP has now clearly laid down any of the United States. I look forward to the attitude of “talking, opening the door; playing, always staying with you” has become an absolute consensus.

On the other hand, Chinese society more than a year ago is generally filled with concerns about the potential consequences of the China-US trade war; there are some people who believe that the Chinese economy, which is in a period of structural transformation, will not be able to withstand the pressure of trade wars from the United States; The reason why the United States will launch a trade war with China is because the current Chinese government’s foreign policy is too strong. But today, one year later, this kind of voice is no longer the mainstream of China. More entrepreneurs have found that although the business is still not very good, although the economic situation is still not very optimistic compared to a few years ago, it is also within the tolerable scope: the consequences of the trade war are not as serious as expected.

Therefore, on the one hand, due to the judgment of the United States in the negotiation process over the past year and the current situation of the overall stability of the society, the Chinese attitude toward the United States has turned hard and turned cold, and it should be a long-term change.

The third participant in the negotiations

Standing on the opposite side of China, the US team is actually composed of “two participants.” One is Trump, and the two are negotiators and consultants behind the head of the US Trade Representative Office, Robert Lighthizer, and Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. Trump and these US officials have always had some differences on China, mainly because the two sides want to achieve different goals.

But now this kind of disagreement has gradually deepened.

For officials such as Letter Heater and Navarro, their ultimate goal is to adjust the US-China trade structure or contain China’s rise. Therefore, for them, the final result is the most important. There are two options for getting this result.

First, under the framework of the “big agreement”, by adding various restrictive clauses against China, it is the best result that Trump is pleased to see that the United States does not have an advantage in the US-China trade.

The second option is to take the second step in the case of a “big agreement” that is not up to the above, seek a decoupling of China-US trade, and reduce the economic dependence of the two countries on each other. This will also reduce the influence of the American business community and other moderates in China on American politics, and thus promote a more tough and radical China policy in the United States. In this regard, Trump does not object, but there is not much interest.

The problem is that Trump is different when US officials “go into a big agreement and can withdraw from China and the United States.” What he wants is an agreement. This agreement can be a “big agreement” or a “small agreement that can be packaged into a large agreement”, such as an agreement involving only agricultural products purchases. For Trump, the trade results are not important and can be packaged in public opinion. The effect is the most important. After all, in the atmosphere of American electoral politics, the surface effect is far more important than the actual performance.

Trump’s increasingly barren toolbox

Therefore, on the one hand, the US officials are carrying their own careful thoughts, and in the face of China, which cannot make concessions in principle, it is too late to reach any agreement; on the other hand, China is becoming more and more tough and colder, letting Trang It is difficult to maintain his image.

This is Trump’s more anxious, more frequent talks on China on Twitter, and even trying to use Hong Kong and Taiwan to contribute to China.

But this is Trump’s problem. In the past two years, he has repeatedly praised Haikou and established a “response to China’s “children of heaven”” before the people and the world. Now it is hard to see results, and the remaining countermeasures in the toolbox are also Attached to more dangerous costs, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, such as financial warfare.

Therefore, unless the US political circles can make a decision, they will have a hard time with China. Otherwise, before the Trump Institute compromises, he can only hope that the two teams will soon reach an agreement that can be packaged as “the United States wins, China loses”, while repeating the “China wants to wait until I step down” and other self-directed The lines and the words “repeated to China, this is my strategy, and it works” and other rhetoric.

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