The US-China trade war has entered a new, darker phase. Photo: iStock
The US-China trade war has entered a new, darker phase. Photo: iStock

It contains 36,000 Chinese characters and condemns the United States for starting the trade war. US President Donald Trump will probably dismiss Beijing’s white paper in little more than a 120-character tweet.

Released on Monday by the official Xinhua news agency, Facts About the China-US Trade Dispute and China’s Stance, is the first comprehensive document from President Xi Jinping’s administration on the new economic Cold War.

“Intimidation” and “bullying” are used frequently while Washington has been accused of “contradicting itself and constantly challenging China.” This, in turn, has caused “serious damage” to trade relations between the world’s two largest economies.

“[The US] has brazenly preached unilateralism, protectionism and economic hegemony, making false accusations against many countries and regions, particularly China,” the government document stated.

“It has intimidated other countries through economic measures, such as imposing tariffs and attempted to impose its own interests on China through extreme pressure. The key, however, lies in how to enhance mutual trust, promote cooperation, and manage differences,” the white paper concluded.

Ironically, the document was unveiled during the Mid-Autumn Festival period, a major holiday in China. It also came out on the same day as the US imposed another round of tariffs on Chinese imports. This time worth US$200 billion.

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Naturally, China retaliated with increased duties on American imports worth $60 billion in what Beijing has described as the “largest trade war in economic history.”

Half of all Chinese goods going into the US have been hit by tariffs with Trump insisting that he could go all the way to “500,” which would involve extra taxes on the remaining imports worth approximately $267 billion.

Trade tensions have escalated to such a point that Xi’s government decided at the weekend to cancel scheduled talks with Washington.

Indeed, Cold War permafrost has already descended on the International Monetary Fund.

“Should the escalation go further, the economic costs for both countries and around the world will quickly add up,” Gerry Rice, a spokesman for the IMF, said last week.

Fitch, one of the ‘Big Three’ ratings agencies along with Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, was even more candid after cutting global growth estimates.

“Protectionist US trade policies have now reached the point where they are materially affecting what remains a strong global growth outlook,” a Fitch report revealed on Friday.

Forty-eight hours later, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was bragging on Fox News that there would be only one winner.

“We are going to win it,” he said. “We’re going to get an outcome which forces China to behave in a way that if you want to be a power – a global power – transparency, rule of law, you don’t steal intellectual property.”

If the White House does up the ante by going all the way to “500,” Beijing would be unable to match that in dollar terms. But it would force Xi’s economic brains trust to find more creative measures, such as targeting major American companies like Apple.

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“I think Trump is very much a symptom and not the cause,” Dani Rodrik, a professor at Harvard University, told the Singapore Summit, a gathering of business leaders and academics, earlier this month.

“Whether Trump is president of the United States or not, in many ways we’ll be facing such tensions. These are broad-based reactions to the kind of economic policies that we’ve pursued in the last quarter century,” he added.

Despite the ballooning trade deficit, there are bigger issues at stake for the US, such as containing China’s rise as it moves towards economic superpower status through its “Made in China 2025” policy and the $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative.

But according to the official newspaper of the country’s ruling Communist Party, the People’s Daily, the world’s second-largest economy is being punished for “hard work and innovation.”

“After more than a century of hard work, China has returned to the center of the world stage, and this is the basic fact we must observe in the China-US trade friction,” the People’s Daily stated in a commentary.

“Such a large size, such a heavy thing, can’t be hidden by ‘being low key,’ just like an elephant can’t hide behind a sapling,” it added.

Certainly, not an “elephant” holding a white paper containing 36,000 Chinese characters.

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