SHANGHAI — The newspaper that serves as the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party had four words to describe the Trump administration on Saturday: rude, unreasonable, selfish and headstrong.
Other propaganda channels in China had similarly harsh words for the United States’ decision to impose tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods. The move brought an immediate response from Beijing, which said it would impose its own tariffs.
While the topic of a looming trade war did not trend on Chinese social media on Saturday, China’s closely controlled state media featured a number of broadsides against the United States. The articles sought to portray China as a leader in free trade, and at times singled out the Trump administration, specifically, for what they denounced as its capricious and confrontational trade stance.
The Trump administration, along with a host of international industry groups, has complained about China’s many trade restrictions that close the country’s huge market to overseas businesses while bolstering its domestic industries.
With Chinese politicians studiously dull and the country’s statecraft closely stage-managed, salvos from the state-controlled news media — which President George H.W. Bush, a former United States ambassador to China, called cannons of rhetoric — offer a more direct, and inflammatory, guide to the thinking of the Beijing government.
Below is a sampling of the responses.
‘Capricious Behavior Has Become the Norm’
From an editorial in The People’s Daily, s seen as an especially close reflection of official opinion:
• “From the time of its first trade provocations until now, capricious behavior has become the norm from America. It not only wears away and squanders the country’s reputation, but it also allows China to see more clearly the face of the Trump administration, one that is rude, unreasonable, selfish and headstrong.”
• “As a leading developed nation, the United States should be an upholder of the multilateral trade system, allowing everyone to benefit from economic development and globalization. However, ‘America first’ is becoming America on its own. The Trump administration obstinately persists in playing the inglorious role of global economic agitator. Recently, America is brandishing the trade war big stick, smacking other countries at will. Former allies like the European Union, Canada, Mexico have become sacrifices to trade protectionism. This exposes the Trump administration’s outmoded views on globalization and trade liberalization. In the eyes of America, the rules of international trade are like a gorgeous coat. When needed, they wear it, when not required, they cast it off and run naked.”
‘No Country Can Lightly Build Fences’
From a commentary published by the Xinhua news agency:
• “The wise build bridges and the foolish build walls. With economic globalization there are no secluded and isolated islands. No country can lightly build fences to stop the tides of history.”
• “With the adjustment of the structure of the global economy and trade, the international competitiveness of the United States has decreased. Promoting unilateralism and trade protectionism has become a leading move for its ‘America first’ strategy. Under this situation, it’s inevitable that China and the United States have frictions in the economic and trade realm, and it will be the new normal for the two countries to move back and forth between negotiation and conflict in an ever-changing way. But this doesn’t mean that one side can perfidiously initiate a trade war.”
‘China Will Have to Fight Back’
• “China doesn’t want to fight a trade war, but in the face of the shortsighted actions of the United States, which do good for no one, China will have to fight back with strength and power, and will firmly defend the economic globalization and the multilateral mechanisms of international trade.”
From The Global Times, a tabloid known for taking hawkish positions, quoting Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the government-affiliated Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation:
• “Trump’s childish tactics might work with some smaller countries, but it would definitely not work with China.”
• “Trump has basically started a trade war with just about every major economy, including the E.U.”