As we warned yesterday, about taking the propaganda of the Beijing panda mask…
Well, today President Trump pummels that narrative when he was asked about it during an impromptu press conference at the White House:
Q On China, can you tell me whether a tariff rollback will be part of the phase-one China deal?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they’d like to have a rollback. I haven’t agreed to anything. China would like to get somewhat of a rollback — not a complete rollback, because they know I won’t do it.
But we’re getting along very well with China. They want to make a deal. Frankly, they want to make a deal a lot more than I do. I’m very happy right now. We’re taking in billions of dollars. I’m very happy. China would like to make a deal much more than I would. (link)
[…] Q Have you figured out where you’re going to sign the phase-one trade deal yet? Do you have a location yet?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re looking at different — assuming we get it. You know, I never like to talk about things until we have them. But it could be Iowa or farm country or someplace like that. It will be in our country, but it could be — it could be someplace like that, John.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don’t think so. I think we’d go more in the farm belt.
[…] Q Do you have a date yet — do you have date yet, sir, for your meeting with Xi Jinping? Is it definitely going to be this year?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see what happens. Okay? We’ll see what happens. We’re getting along very well. They want to make the deal far more than I do. I will tell you, they want to make it far more than I do, but we’ll see what happens.
We’re taking in, right now — and you know — as a reporter of finance, you know what I’m saying. They’ve devalued their currency and they ate this tariff. We’re taking in billions of dollars in tariff money from China. I like our situation very much. They want to make a deal much more than I do, but we could have a deal.
Beijing is proposing acceptance of U.S. demands, but only if that acceptance also delivers a removal of the tariffs that created their diminished status.
USTR Lighthizer isn’t stupid, he’s not going to give back two-years of hard won position.
While they hate it, Beijing internally also understands the U.S. position, this is why they consider Trump such a formidable adversary.
So the latest position from Beijing is to say “a phased reduction in tariffs”, in exchange for a “phased acceptance” of terms. From the Chinese position, they view this as their version of how they project the Western mindset of win-win into the negotiations.
None of the principals can say this directly; to make such an admission would be akin to losing face amid a history of thousands of years of specific Chinese strategy. So they send out spokespersons to promote such a proposal.
Anyone who has an understanding of the Chinese outlook should take all of the media reporting on this with a grain-of-salt. Beijing uses spokespersons as panda masks, and Team Trump know the distance between the Chinese principal and a Chinese spokesperson is part of their strategy. The unspoken space between words is more important than the words themselves. Inside this space is where cunning exists.
This is what happened when the May 2019 talks collapsed.
Special trade envoy of Chairman Xi, Vice-Premier Liu He, quickly turned from a principal to a panda mask as soon as Beijing weighed in -and rebuked- Liu He’s negotiated terms.
Vice-Premier Liu He was stripped of his “special envoy” designation; and Beijing used the distance they just created with He as the justification for dismissing the May ’19 terms of agreement. That example was very typically Chinese.
The point is, Beijing does not want to accept any new terms that diminishes their prior one-sided benefit. China is communist, they don’t have a direct constituent group they are accountable to…. they are willing to incur suffering so long as they don’t lose position.
Losing less is not considered a position of benefit. China cannot even contemplate such a position; it just isn’t done. So any and all reporting on the discussions should be viewed through the prism that any deal is almost impossible to assemble unless, somehow, Beijing can view a deal as a win. That is a deal President Trump is not going to accept.