OPINION: Xi Jinping Is the Chief Culprit in the China-US Trade War

OPINION: Xi Jinping Is the Chief Culprit in the China-US Trade War
Credit: Reuters / TPG

What you need to know

Xi Jinping's China knows it is in the wrong on the trade war but couldn't care less.

The Sino-U.S. trade war is escalating, and many critics have concluded that Xi Jinping is being taken to the cleaners. The Communist Party of China's (CCP's) decision-making center are in a state of shock, and the various departments of the Central Committee have been caught up in the chaos, fighting their own individual wars.

In July, at the outset of the trade war, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai delivered a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, claiming that China has never played the role of a "revisionist country."

Instead, the ambassador asserted China has always been willing to be a 'good student' in abiding by WTO rules and other international political and economic orders:

"Look at the history of China over the past decades, and we can find that China has joined more and more international organizations, acceded to more and more international treaties and conventions, and accepted more and more international rules. For instance, some people are unhappy with China's performance in the WTO. Actually, it took us 15 years to join the WTO. We learned about its rules, adapted to them, and abided by them. It is fair to say that China's record in the WTO is open, transparent, and faithful to our commitment to the organization."

Credit: Reuters / TPG
China's Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, maintains China is doing its best to abide by international rules.

Even though Cui was unwilling to accept that that China had made any mistakes, and defended China’s position through to the end, he did however, at least recognize that China needed to adhere more closely to the WTO rules and the international treaties and conventions that they have signed.

At the recent General Council of the WTO in Geneva, Zhang Xiangchen, China’s permanent representative to the WTO, did not echo Cui’s sentiments, and instead was very direct about China’s core policy: China will not comply with any international rules forced on them by the U.S.

Zhang Xiangchen (張向晨) expressed his view in a written comment to Reuters that the U.S. was demonizing China in an attempt to divert the attention of the international community and ease the heat on itself: "The U.S. might be in an illusion that such tactic could force China to bow down, and tailor-make a set of ‘international rules’ specifically for China, aimed to tie up China’s hands and ultimately contain our development."

In this regard, Zhang seems to be more “honest” than Cui, in the same way that Xi Jinping is more “honest” that Deng Xiaoping used to be.

Credit: Reuters / TPG
Xiangchen Zhang (L), Chinese Ambassador to the WTO, speaks with Keith Rockwell, Director of Information of the WTO at the start of the General Council meeting at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, July 26, 2018.

After all, in China, "honest" is another way of saying "naïve." Since international rules are "binding" for China, China is not willing to weaken and debilitate itself; China will instead do as it pleases and run amok, it will lie, cheat and steal, because "villains fears no one," this is the exact basis for the Dengism philosophy; "It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice." The so-called 40 years of "Chinese economic reforms" have, in fact, been 40 years of smoke and mirrors.

If the gray-haired Cui represents the strategy of "sweeping things under the rug" from the Deng Xiaoping era, where bad things will be done, but will not be mentioned; then, Zhang, with his more youthful head of black hair, represents the modern political model of the Xi Jinping era; daylight robbery, where bad things will not only be done, but they will be justified by the state.

This policy is the reason why China’s scholars such as law professor, Xu Zhangrun and economist, Gao Shanwen have only secretly criticized the “core leader,” as they do not want to completely expose and decry the CCP’s evil nature, but they are trying to persuade the "core leader" to hark back to the "Deng" era, rather than the "Mao" era.

So, what does the WTO have to say about China’s record? The WTO wrote in the China Trade Policy Review (TPR) that the Chinese government assists state-owned enterprises and restricts the entry of foreign companies, and has continued to intervene in economic activities, none of which equates to an open market.

The report points out that China's trade in agricultural products and mineral products are all undertaken by state-owned enterprises, which then implement price controls. "State involvement in the economy remains considerable" (summary: page 12: paragraph 24), and therefore foreign enterprises are still encountering barriers when trying to enter the market.”

Regarding the problems of intellectual property rights (IPRs) protection, a major bugbear of foreign enterprises in both the U.S. and Europe when it comes to their China operations, the report says that the main laws have remained largely unchanged, and that the enforcement of IPR laws is still insufficient. China filed an appeal with the WTO, and now that they have issued their report, surely China should formally accept or refuse the revisions, yet the government in Beijing has remained silent.

One person who has not been as polite as the WTO report, was the White House’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow. In an interview with U.S. media, Kudlow said that China’s paramount leader, President Xi Jinping personally blocked reasonable solutions to the U.S.-China trade dispute.

Credit: Reuters / TPG
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow speaks during a meeting of the Economic Club of New York in New York City, Sept. 17, 2018.

In other words, Xi Jinping himself is the perpetrator of the Sino-U.S. trade wars. Kudlow also said that the U.S. is targeting China’s unfair trade policies, which have included the theft of IP and enforced transfer of technologies. "The whole world agrees with us regarding China’s trade practices. And, in fact, many parts of that world have filed their own complaints on exactly the same grounds, either with the government of China or with the WTO."

He added that it is not only the world that agrees, even the Chinese themselves are well aware of it. "Our sources, now, a lot of sources in China are telling us that the Chinese government realizes they're wrong, I hear this repeatedly from my sources; and yet, as of today, they refuse to act on it. They know they're wrong. They know the rest of the world knows they're wrong. […] They haven’t respond at all, not one basis point, to our request."

An independent Chinese writer known by the pen name Wang Wusi wrote in an article discussing a fake vaccine incident: "We know why the outbreak happened. They also know why the outbreak happened. They also know that we know, and we also know they know that we know, yet other outbreaks will still happen again. In conclusion, all this means is that, we are not important." The people of China and their opinions are of zero importance in the eyes of the CCP.

However, the U.S. and the West are not under CCP rule. Now that Kudlow has pointed out that "They know they're wrong. They know the rest of the world knows they're wrong", it means that the United States certainly won’t let it stand.

Since China is desperately trying to show that it is a dragon with sharp teeth and claws, rather than a “paper tiger,” or “docile panda,” it seems the Dragon Slayers of the West will be stepping up to the plate and the Panda-huggers (international businesses in China) will have to take the strain.

It is not only Trump and his advisers that have noticed, but more and more Western countries have cottoned on to the fact that China is not the struggling student that needs encouraging, but is instead a mischievous dragon that wants to join the Wall Street bull.

Even if a few naïve Western liberals, such as makers of the Hollywood blockbuster sequel “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” are willing to sacrifice themselves to the dragon, it is very doubtful that anyone with the slightest hint of common sense and rationality would be willing to do so.

China and the West cannot coexist in the world, but it is not a question of whether the Pacific Ocean or the Earth itself is big enough. Respected historian, William Liu revealed a very obvious rationale: "Fundamentally speaking, if China integrates into the Western world, then China will no longer exist. China is composed of two layers. The first is the CCP itself, which is like the yin to the yang of peaceful developments. Even Americans who are most willing to accept China, are only doing so in the hope that they can eradicate and dissolve institutional Communism in the least costly manner, but of course that is an unacceptable option for the CCP itself.

For this reason alone, China will, sooner or later, break away from the West. At the same time, at a deeper level, the second layer, the basis of China’s political structure has been inherited from the Qing Dynasty, and similar to the Ottoman and Russian Empires, it cannot be integrated into the West.

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” is a refrain common among Socialist thinkers, often misattributed to Lenin. It seems especially relevant at a time when the capitalists in Washington appear to have woken up to the noose around their necks.

Read Next: OPINION: Will the US-China Trade War Really Spur Taiwan's Companies to Leave China?

Editor: David Green (@DavidPeterGreen)

This article originally appeared on the Chinese-language Taiwan edition of The News Lens. The original can be found here.

Translator: Zeke Li

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