US Trade Dust-up Causes Rift in Chinese Leadership
A growing trade dispute with the US is reported to be causing rifts within China’s Communist Party, with some critics saying that an overly nationalistic Chinese stance may have hardened the US position.
President Xi Jinping still has a firm grip on power, but an unusual surge of criticism about economic policy and how the government has handled the trade ‘war’ has revealed rare cracks in the ruling Communist Party.
A backlash is being felt at the highest levels of the government, possibly hitting a close aide to Xi, his ideology chief and strategist Wang Huning, according to the rumors.
A prominent and influential academic whose views have found favor in some party quarters has also come under attack for his strident views on Chinese power.
Wang, who was the architect of the “China Dream”, Xi’s vision for China to become a strong and prosperous nation, has been taken to task by the Chinese leader for crafting an excessively nationalistic image for the country, which has only provoked the United States.
“He is in trouble for mishandling the propaganda and hyping up China too much.”
The office of the party’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Wang and his relationship with Xi, or on whether China had erred in its messaging in the trade war.
There is a growing feeling within the Chinese government that the outlook for China has “become grim”, according to a government policy advisor, following the deterioration in relations between China and the US over trade.
“Many economists and intellectuals are upset about China’s trade war policies,” an academic at a Chinese policy think tank told Reuters. “The overarching view is that China’s current stance has been too hard-line and the leadership has clearly misjudged the situation.”
That view contrasts with the thinking at the beginning of the year of many Chinese academics who had touted China’s ability to withstand the trade row in the face of President Trump’s perceived political weakness at home. They were wrong.
The cracks within the communist party come as China’s stock markets and currency have collapsed, and the government has struggled to shore up the economy to cushion the impact of the trade war.
China in recent weeks has encouraged more lending and pledged to use fiscal policy, including tax cuts and more funding for local governments to combat slowing economic growth and rising uncertainty driven in part by the escalating trade war.
It is unclear if Wang, the propaganda boss, will face any consequences, and there may be other reasons for the tensions within the party related to him.
It is said that the tension has to do with Wang opposing a cult of personality that has been forming around President Xi.
Diplomats and leadership sources say Wang is unlikely to be removed from the Standing Committee, the party body that runs China, in what would be an unprecedented move.
Though official media has in recent days been filled with defiant commentary regarding the United States and the trade war, there have been signs of a shift in China’s messaging.
The thinking in Chinese government circles is that the damage has already been done, and that China has learned the hard way that its domestic propaganda is now being scrutinized abroad in a way it never was before.
“It’s impossible for China to ‘bide its time and hide its strength’, but at least we can control the volume of our own propaganda and tell China’s story the proper way,” the policy official said.
“When the size of China’s economy was small, it got little outside attention but China is now closely watched.”
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