As Trade Tensions Escalate, China Girds Its Citizens for a ‘People’s War’

As Trade Tensions Escalate, China Girds Its Citizens for a ‘People’s War’
A Cosco Shipping container ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, May 14, 2019 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

The trade war between China and the United States is heating up again, with no resolution in sight. As promised, U.S. President Donald Trump more than doubled tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods Friday, the same day trade talks in Washington between Chinese and American negotiators ended without a deal. Beijing retaliated Monday by slapping higher tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods. With both sides dug in for a potentially lengthy battle, Beijing’s propaganda apparatus has called on citizens to rally behind what it terms a “people’s war.”

Just weeks ago, analysts were speculating about how a trade agreement between the two largest economies in the world—then believed to be imminent—would shape their relations, as well as the international trading system. But ahead of a crucial round of negotiations in Beijing two weeks ago, China reportedly reneged on nearly all binding legal language holding a potential trade agreement together, completely destroying the credibility of the deal in the eyes of U.S. negotiators. Washington, for its part, had insisted that tariffs on Chinese imports remain in effect after a deal was reached, and demanded Beijing’s word that it would not retaliate if the U.S. were to reimpose tariffs in the event it found China had violated provisions of the agreement. These conditions were unacceptable to Beijing.

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