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. There’s been a lot of anticipatory work done, but we’re miles and miles from getting a resolution and frankly, that shouldn’t be too surprising,” Ross said, according to Reuters.
“Trade is very complicated, there’s lots and lots of issues,” he said, adding that he thinks “there’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 which Wang Huning, the party’s ideology adviser and its fifth most powerful member, called on cadres in the provinces to fight “a tough battle” 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 Jinping’s leadership and toe the party line.
The Chinese leader specified “unpredictable international developments and a complicated and sensitive external environment”, a phrase used often by Chinese leaders in reference to rising threats from China’s trade war with Washington.
Both Xi and Wang instructed cadres to employ “bottom-line thinking” or be prepared for the “worst-case situation.”
The conference gave the officials a better comprehension of the “new risks and new problems” 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 Xi’s comments and the four-day session punctuated Beijing’s angst about the fallout from the trade war.
“The speech [by Xi] is sternly worded and very solemn,” Zhu said, according to the SCMP. “The impact of the trade war on China’s economy is likely to weigh in 2019.”
Zhang Lifan, a political commentator based in Beijing, also said the effects of the ongoing trade war were weighing heavily on Chinese Communist leaders.
““The trade war might not end this year, and even if it does, the structural changes to China’s economy [demanded by the US] would pose a challenge to the Communist Party,” Zhang said.
“And [even those changes] won’t be enough to end the long-term confrontation and the fact that US considers China a rival,” he added.
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