U.S.-China trade talks ended Friday without a deal. The United States increased tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, and Beijing retaliated Monday by announcing it would enact new tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods. Although China’s response was proportionate, state media also unleashed a barrage of nationalist rhetoric.
A video clip from Xinwen Lianbo, China’s most watched nightly news broadcast, went viral: “If the U.S. wants to talk, our door is open … If the U.S. wants to fight, we’ll be with them till the end.” Mentions of a “trade war” on Chinese media have spiked, suggesting that government censors have loosened the reins on coverage of the U.S.-China standoff.
What does this renewed surge in strident Chinese commentary mean for the ongoing U.S.-China trade fight? Here are three things to watch.
1. Beijing is rolling out the nationalist propaganda. The Chinese government appears to be preparing the public for a protracted and costly trade war, resisting what it calls U.S. “bullying.” At the same time, Vice Premier Liu He made it clear after the Friday talks ended that Beijing remains open to a deal that gives enough “dignity” to the Chinese side.
By proclaiming that China will fight to the end and invoking the nation’s experience with hardship over 5,000 years of history, the Chinese government is likely trying to shore up popular resolve for a long and painful trade war, should the Trump administration refuse to relent. Broadcasting that the government is standing up to U.S. pressure sets the stage for the Chinese government to blame the nation’s economic pain on U.S. tariffs.