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Protracted frictions more than trade

Writer: Winton Dong  | Editor: Jane Chen  | From:  | Updated: 2018-10-15

Email of the writer: dht0620@126.com

Trade conflict between China and the United States has been ongoing for several months and there is no sign of ending at all. It seems that such a contentious situation has turned out to be a “new normal” in Sino-American relations.

No one wants to see the escalation of friction. But it is also a good scenario for the Chinese Government and policymakers to temper themselves and improve their capability to well handle complicated and changing international disputes.

Amid escalating tensions following U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of new tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods and possible punitive tariffs on all the other US$267 billion worth of Chinese imports, plus U.S. accusations regarding China’s trade surplus, intellectual property infringement, technology transfer and other issues, Chinese officials are learning to dismiss and refute unfounded accusations with facts and statistics. At the end of September, China issued a white paper, “The Facts and China’s Position on China-U.S. Trade Friction,” to clarify its stance on the ongoing trade conflict and provide the facts about bilateral economic exchanges.

Although these measures taken by China may not halt the unilateral protectionist actions of President Trump, at least they have demonstrated that China is not only fully prepared for the escalation of the conflict, but also committed to negotiating on the grounds of equality and reciprocity.

Trade friction between two of the largest economies in the world has aroused global attention and made me recall two books — “On Protracted War” and “The Art of the Deal.”

“On Protracted War” was written by late Chinese leader Mao Zedong. It is a work comprising a series of speeches by the Chinese chairman from May 26 to June 3, 1938. At that time, the invading Japanese army was much stronger than that of China and many Chinese people were pessimistic about winning the war. The book analyzed the situation with detail and divided the protracted war into three stages, namely defense, duration and counterblow. It called for small assaults on the battlefields, thus providing an alternative means of resistance before the Chinese army became powerful and fought back in greater scale.

“The Art of the Deal” is a book written by Trump and published by Random House in 1987. In his book, then businessman Trump summarizes an 11-step formula for business success. Trump’s steps are: think big, protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself, maximize your options, know your market, use your leverage, enhance your location, get the word out, fight back, deliver the goods, contain the cost, and finally have fun. “My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high and then just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after. Sometimes, I settle for less than I sought; but in most cases, I still end up with what I want,” Trump said in his book.

In my point of view, “The Art of the Deal” is a vivid portrait of President Trump himself. As a successful businessman, he has already used his business formula in managing the United States and handling relationships with other countries. For Trump, everything is regarded as a deal and can be pushed to get maximal benefits from the others. Guided by these principles, he is not likely to back down, because his tough stance on Sino-American relations would most probably win him more support at home and clear the way for more harsh measures toward China before the midterm elections.

Moreover, China’s rapid development has served as a catalyst for a change in China-U.S. relations and emboldened the voices of hardliners against China in the United States. Almost one week ago, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence opened fire on China and groundlessly depicted it as an evil empire seeking to contest the geopolitical advantages of the U.S. and international order.

Under these circumstances, the Chinese Government should have a clear mind and enough psychological preparation for even fiercer conflicts in trade and other fields with the United States, which will likely become a “new normal” and long-term phenomenon in the future.

As Trump once said, “Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself.” While bracing for the worst and hoping for the best, the Chinese Government should also address both domestic and international challenges without any letup. Domestically, China must adopt more targeted measures and fine-tune monetary policies to stabilize its quality-oriented economic development. Faced with possible near-term depreciation, the stemming of major fluctuations in the currency market is also very important. Internationally, China should further open to the outside world and enlarge its friendship circle, so as to attract more foreign investment and find more alternative markets in the rest of the world.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)