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PRC reactions to U.S. pressure

AXIOS, Bill Bishop

As we mentioned in last week's newsletter, Pence's speech struck a nerve — and the repercussions continued this week.

Buzz: Xinhua published at least 8 responses attacking the speech. The Central Propaganda Department’s Theory Bureau, writing under the pen name "Zhongxuanli 钟轩理," published 2 commentaries attacking Pence's comments in People's Daily this week. The South China Morning Post reports:

The nearly 5,400-word screed by “Zhong Xuanli”, a pseudonym used by the Central Propaganda Department’s Theory Bureau, sought to refute the vice-president’s address point by point, including a remarkable proposal for Beijing to buy four US Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers to help close China’s trade surplus with the US.

“The problem is not that China does not buy, but that the United States does not sell,” the piece argued, referencing the escalating trade war between the two countries. “For example, is the US willing to sell its Ford-class aircraft carriers? If one piece is priced at US$15 billion and the US sells four to China, we can immediately narrow the trade gap by US$60 billion.”

“Pence even said that much of China’s success was driven by American investment in China and that the US ‘rebuilt’ China over the last 25 years – what a huge joke!”

There are concerns that U.S. pressure will lead to rising nationalism and conservatism in China. London School of Economics professor Jin Keyu makes that point in an op-ed for Caixin:

Yet, in China’s view, what the U.S. is really reacting to is not only the specifics of its trade policy, but also its overall development model and its aspirations to become a major global power — aspirations that are not out of reach. In fact, the Chinese believe, Trump’s trade war effectively proves that China has become a real and present threat to American hegemony.

Whether this is true or not is irrelevant; what matters is Chinese perception. Whereas in the past, when only a few conservatives warned of U.S. attempts to “contain” China, virtually everyone in China now buys into this narrative, including a growing number of young people...

The real danger is that rising nationalism could embolden a contingent of the Communist Party, known in China as the New Left, that denounces capitalism and its Western proponents, and calls for a return to the Maoist socialist order of 40 years ago.

Between the lines: Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, has also been publicly worrying on his Weibo account about the temptation to become more conservative and nationalistic in the face of U.S. pressure. Hu is smart, savvy and an excellent political weather vane — so for him to express these concerns means he sees such a shift as a real possibility.

Go deeper:

U.S. Edges Toward New Cold-War Era With China (WSJ)The two People's Daily commentaries by "Zhonglixuan"--泾渭由来两清浊--给中国对世界的贡献算算账 and 不畏浮云遮望眼——经济全球化趋势不可阻挡.

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