On Sunday, June 2, the State Council Information Office (SCIO) published China’s position paper on trade talks with the U.S. Here’s the link to the full-text. Our quick take: 1) This is the first time that China attributed setbacks in the trade talks to U.S. backtracking – in fact, the position paper listed three U.S. breaches of commitment, calling it the “first, second and third U.S. backtracking”. The intention is clearly to rebut U.S. claim that China backtracked in the days leading up to the 11th round of talks in early May, laying blame on the U.S. side as an effort to reassure both domestic and international audiences that it wasn’t China’s fault that the talks broke down. 2) No surprises in the rest of the criticisms of the U.S. and in the defensive talking points. However, the position paper did make it clear that it was U.S. “exorbitant demands” which included “mandatory requirements concerning China’s sovereign affairs” that resulted in the breakdown of talks. 3) What’s most interesting in this position paper is the use of the phrase “China is looking forward, not backward” in the conclusion paragraph. In the weeks following the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Chinese leaders used similar phrases after a period of heightened tensions with the U.S. We believe that the message China is hoping to convey to the Trump White House through this position paper is that as long as the “exorbitant demands” are lifted, China remains willing to commit to the reform promises it had already made in the agreement.
People’s Daily, one of China’s official newspapers, published yet another series of nine op-eds, accusing the U.S. for inflicting the trade war. Similar to the previous nine commentaries published just a week ago, the new series or articles all follow the same format, each highlighting a specific area where the U.S. is “bound to fail” (必将失败). Quick take: Unlike the previous series, the new op-eds are much more aggressive in calling out the U.S., striking an offensive, rather than defensive tone seen in the previous commentaries. Furthermore, the first batch of nine commentaries was published in sequence – from 14-22 May, whereas the new ones were published simultaneously, taking up a full page in People’s Daily. Below are the verbatim translations of the titles of all nine commentaries. We’ve also included a few English translations done so far by People’s Daily. Note the nuance in the official translation, where the translators softened the tone of some of the more aggressive phrases. The international order cannot tolerate reckless and capricious behavior – Disregarding the rules is bound to fail Fair cooperation is the only right choice – Zero-sum games are bound to fail A storm cannot overturn the ocean – Going against the trend is bound to fail Hegemony in science and technology hinders development and progress – Rejecting competition is bound to fail Abusive use of power toward an unjust cause is doomed to lose support – Supremacy and arrogance is bound to fail American exceptionalism is a toxic theory of civilization superiority – double standards are bound to fail [Official translation]: American exceptionalism argument harmful to the world Bankruptcy of credibility is the most destructive form of bankruptcy – Breaking one’s own word is bound to fail [Official translation]: US faces severe credibility crisis as it frequently breaks promises Why insist on hitting the point of no return – Marching toward a dead end is bound to fail [Official translation]: US should wake up and pull back before it’s too late Clever calculations will lead to nothing – Petty tricks are bound to fail