Chinese media calls for ‘people’s war’ as US trade war heats up

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Hong Kong (CNN)China will survive its trade war with the United States, state media insists, as it mounts a fierce new propaganda campaign against US “greed.”

In a series of opinion pieces and on-air editorials, the country’s government-controlled media used strong and nationalistic language to reassure a shaky domestic audience that China’s economy can weather the higher tariffs imposed last Friday by US President Donald Trump.

One strongly worded editorial published by both the Xinhua News Agency and the People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, said that while the US was fighting for “greed and arrogance,” China fought to defend “its legitimate rights and interests.”

“The trade war in the United States is the creation of one person and his administration who have swept along the entire population of the country. Whereas the entire country and all the people of China are being threatened. For us, this is a real ‘people’s war,'” the editorial said.

A statement read during the primetime 7 p.m. news on state broadcaster CCTV by anchor Kang Hui said China would “fight for a new world,” adding that in its long history “there’s nothing we haven’t seen before.”

“As President Xi Jinping pointed out, the Chinese economy is a sea, not a small pond. A rainstorm can destroy a small pond, but it cannot harm the sea. After numerous storms, the sea is still there,” Kang said.

The clip went viral on China’s social media sites, where it has been viewed millions of times. CCTV’s own post of the clip has has been reposted by most state media accounts.

The commentaries marked a dramatic escalation in the propaganda battle after a week in which state media played down news of the trade war — barely mentioning the pair of tweets from Trump on May 3 which reignited tensions after months of negotiations.

China announces new tariffs

In just a couple of weeks the prospect of a wide-ranging agreement to end the year-long trade war has almost completely collapsed.

On Friday, the Trump administration raised tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports from 10% to 25%, after the US leader accused China of trying to back out of the deal by renegotiating key aspects of it. Washington also said it would start the process of adding duties to almost everything else which China sends to the US, valued about $300 billion.

In response, China announced on Monday it would be raising tariffs on roughly $60 billion of US exports.

The mood was a stark contrast to late April, when there was speculation a deal could be signed within weeks.

But on the face of it, neither side is showing much concern about the rapid escalation. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday that he was happy to impose more tariffs. “I love the position we’re in,” he said.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily press briefing that China would “never yield to external pressure.”

“China hopes the US can make joint efforts and work with China to solve mutual concerns based on mutual respect, and to reach a mutually beneficial deal,” he said.

US markets clearly did not relish the trade tensions, with the Dow closing down 617 points and the S&P 500 falling by 2.4%. For both, it was their worst day since January 3.

Trump and Xi are expected to meet at the G20 summit in Japan in June.

Hot and cold

Up until Wednesday last week, Chinese state media had barely mentioned renewed tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade.

Instead TV, newspapers and online media sites were suddenly full of good news about the Chinese economy and its resilience in the face of global headwinds.

On May 7, the People’s Daily published a front-page article titled “China’s Economy: Full of Resilience,” citing strong economic data. Xinhua ran a similar story.

CCTV aired a five-minute report in its flagship evening newscast under a similar banner, complete with a video montage of crisscrossing high-speed trains, automated factory assembly lines and busy container ports.

But there were hints of what was to come. State-run social media account Taoran Notes, under the Economic Daily newspaper, declared ominously that if a deal is “unfavorable, (China) won’t budge no matter how you ask.”

On Wednesday last week it went even further. “We are no stranger to the scenario of fighting while negotiating.”

CNN’s Steven Jiang, Serenitie Wang and Lily Lee contributed to this article.

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