By Jon Dougherty
As the Trump administration signals publicly that there is a ways to go before it reaches an equitable trade arrangement with Beijing, there are growing signs that China’s Communist Party is concerned that the ongoing trade war and decline in the country’s GDP could spark widespread unrest.
On Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the U.S. and China had “miles and miles” to go before reaching a deal, though a trade delegation from Beijing was headed to the United States in the coming days to continue talks.
“There is a very large group coming. Thereâ€™s been a lot of anticipatory work done, but weâ€™re miles and miles from getting a resolution and frankly, that shouldnâ€™t be too surprising,â€ Ross said,Â according to Reuters.
â€œTrade is very complicated, thereâ€™s lots and lots of issues,” he said, adding thatÂ he thinksÂ “thereâ€™s a fair chance we do get to a deal.”
At the same time, however, it’s becoming more apparent that the Trump administration’s strategy of imposing tariffs coupled with tough demands is working.
Communist Party leaders in China have just wrapped up a four-day conference in Beijing in whichÂ Wang Huning, the partyâ€™s ideology adviser and its fifth most powerful member, called on cadres in the provinces to fightÂ â€œa tough battleâ€ in controlling risks, Xinhua reported, as quoted by the South China Morning Post.
In an address to the assembled party leaders, Wang recounted a growing list of risks to internal stability that Beijing is facing as the trade war drags on and tariffs are taking a bite out of Chinese economic growth, which is the slowest since 1990.
Wang urged the political cadres to keep President Xi Jinping’s leadership safe and to adhere to the party line. He also told officials that they had to follow up by showing they are responding to what they were told via “actions and results.”
His concerns echoed those of President Xi’s during Monday’s opening sessions when he instructed the cadres to be on the lookout for any signs of risks that could impact societal stability and his reforms.
Wang identified a long list of risks faced by Beijing, urging the cadres to safeguard Chinese President Xi Jinpingâ€™s leadership and toe the party line.
The Chinese leaderÂ specified â€œunpredictable international developments and a complicated and sensitive external environmentâ€, a phrase used often by Chinese leaders in reference to rising threats from Chinaâ€™s trade war with Washington.
Both Xi and Wang instructed cadres to employ â€œbottom-line thinkingâ€ or be prepared for the â€œworst-case situation.”
The conference gave the officials a better comprehension of the â€œnew risks and new problemsâ€ that China is facing due to the escalating trade war and decreased economic growth, Xinhua noted.
Zhu Lijia of the Chinese Academy of Governance remarked that Xiâ€™s comments and the four-day session punctuated Beijingâ€™s angst about the fallout from the trade war.
â€œThe speech [by Xi] is sternly worded and very solemn,â€ Zhu said, according to the SCMP. â€œThe impact of the trade war on Chinaâ€™s economy is likely to weigh in 2019.â€
Zhang Lifan, a political commentator based in Beijing, also said the effects of the ongoing trade war were weighing heavily on Chinese Communist leaders.
“â€œThe trade war might not end this year, and even if it does, the structural changes to Chinaâ€™s economy [demanded by the US] would pose a challenge to the Communist Party,â€ Zhang said.
â€œAnd [even those changes] wonâ€™t be enough to end the long-term confrontation and the fact that US considers China a rival,” he added.
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