The US will raise tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports effective Friday, according to a notice posted to the Federal Register.
The announcement was made at 8:45 pm on May 8 (Beijing time). At 11:23 pm, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said that China will have to take necessary countermeasures if the US goes ahead with its plan to increase tariffs on Chinese imports. Although China’s announcement was made in a calm and peaceful manner, it has shown the country’s unswerving resolution to defend its own interests.
Washington has lit the fuse on escalating China-US trade tensions. Beijing had announced it would send a delegation for the Thursday consultations before Washington’s Wednesday announcement. At this critical time, Washington’s imprudent move is clearly an extreme means of sending an alarming message to China. Washington must have expected the Chinese delegation would rush to the US and seize every opportunity to reverse the situation. Instead, the Chinese delegation decided to fly to the US one day later than originally planned. This is the way Chinese express their will and determination.
The 11th round of China-US trade talks in Washington on May 9 looks like what Chinese call a “Banquet at Hongmen,” an ostensibly joyous situation that is in fact treacherous.” On the one hand, Washington is lighting a fuse on escalating trade tensions; and on the other they still want to continue negotiating with the Chinese delegation. By doing so, they have set a new precedent in the history of trade talks.
Many people may ask: Under such circumstances, why is Beijing still sending the delegation to Washington? In fact, it’s really Washington that should be answering the question: Under such circumstances, why is the Chinese delegation invited to Washington for more trade talks?
The answer is simple. Both China and the US want to finalize a trade deal. Obviously, there are some issues that are difficult to overcome for both sides. It seems that both are now mentally prepared for a transition from truce talks to the mode of “fighting and talking” at the same time.
It is a great pity that after meeting halfway on most of their differences, China and the US have not been able to reach consensus on the last few core issues. Those issues are not supposed to come up as they specifically reflect the unreasonable demands made by the US. Their emergence is rooted in the misguided perception that the US is privileged by its strength. That misconception has also motivated the latest unexpected tariff rise announced by Washington.
China has turned down the US demands at the final stage of negotiation. It was not only encouraged by its strength, but also motivated by its belief in the principle of equality. China is not afraid of conflict with the US at the last moment. In the face of the “big stick” of the US tariff threats, China has once again demonstrated its confidence in coping with an escalated trade war.
Since neither side has given up on the idea of making a deal, and it is the ultimate goal of both countries, the latest round of China-US trade talks is expected to be conducted in a climate of uncertainty, including that of a looming escalated trade war. Such a scenario has rarely been seen in the history of trade talks.
Will the US hit the brakes on the trade war at the last minute? Chinese want to know the answer to that question, but Americans are more concerned. Washington has found itself caught in a dilemma between its ambition to gain the upper hand in trade over China and its desire to minimize any negative impacts on its stock market. Beijing is serious about both trade talks and trade wars. Now, it is fully ready to switch to the mode of “fighting and talking.”
China is well prepared for an escalation in trade tensions. A variety of plans are in place, such as countermeasures for any tariff rise, and favorable policies to minimize losses for Chinese enterprises. Mentally and materially, China is much better prepared than the US.
In the face of the imminent, unique “Banquet at Hongmen,” Chinese have full confidence in their delegation. Members of the Chinese delegation not only have the experience and wisdom to cope with the situation, but they also have the firm support and trust of the entire Chinese society.
Undoubtedly, the delegation will bring both the strong will and goodwill of the Chinese government and people to Washington at this critical juncture.
If there is a new round of tariff conflicts, it would be a repeat, or an enhanced version of what happened in the past. It would definitely incur losses for China and the US, losses that are both direct and indirect, explicit and implicit. Anyway, the total scale of losses on both sides would be roughly the same. If Washington has its mind set on going back down the path of a trade war, then China will fight it to the end. China has always had a firm stand on a trade war: China does not want it; China is not afraid of it; China will launch it when necessary.
Seeking fairness and justice on the global stage sometimes requires a huge price. It also can be costly for different parties to reach consensus. In the past year, China and the US have been locked in a trade war and have had 10 rounds of trade talks. However, the two sides have failed to meet each other halfway to make a deal. Many are wondering how much it will cost the two countries before a final agreement is made. If the latest round of talks in Washington fails to solve the puzzle, then the two countries will have to keep searching for the answer in the future.
(In association with Global Times)