Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, January 2020
US and China to Sign a Trade Deal on January 15, 2020, Decreasing Bilateral Tensions, Trump Eyes a Beijing Trip
January 3, 2020
U.S., China to sign trade deal on Jan. 15, Trump eyes Beijing trip
"I will be signing our very large and comprehensive Phase One Trade Deal with China on January 15. The ceremony will take place at the White House. High level representatives of China will be present. At a later date I will be going to Beijing where talks will begin on Phase Two!" Trump tweeted.
The announcement comes after the two countries finalized a partial trade deal in mid-December, with Washington agreeing to alleviate existing punitive tariff rates imposed on some Chinese goods in return for Beijing's commitment to a substantial boost in farm purchases.
The agreement is seen as a reprieve amid the prolonged tit-for-tat trade war between the world's two largest economies.
The phase-one deal also requires China to address U.S. concerns in the areas of intellectual property protection, forced technology transfer, financial services and the use of currency manipulation as a way to boost exports.
Under the deal, the United States will refrain from imposing 15 percent levies on Chinese items worth $160 billion, a move originally planned for Dec. 15. China will also forgo its plan to invoke retaliatory tariffs the same day.
The Trump administration has so far imposed punitive tariffs of up to 25 percent on around $370 billion of Chinese goods, more than half the amount China sold to the United States in 2018, citing concerns over intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer by Chinese companies.
But the United States said on Dec. 13 that it will halve its current 15 percent tariff rates imposed on $120 billion of Chinese items, opting for the first time to roll back tariffs introduced since the battle of retaliatory levies started in July last year.
Washington will still maintain a rate of 25 percent for existing tariffs on approximately $250 billion of Chinese imports.
Trump said the 25 percent tariffs will be used for "future negotiations" as the United States pursues a comprehensive deal to rectify what it sees as China's unfair economic practices, such as industrial subsidies.
Trump is apparently eager to claim a major trade victory to boost his prospects of re-election, while concerns have been growing over the potential impacts of the spiraling tariff war on the two countries.
The planned December tariff increase was feared as a potential drag on U.S. consumption, especially around the holiday shopping season, as many consumer goods including laptop computers, cellphones, toys and video game consoles would have been affected.
Will a signed trade deal ease U.S.-China tensions? Probably not.
White House tweets and comments also shape how Chinese people view the United States.
Washingto Post, Jan. 2, 2020
By Donglin Han
President Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping will sign a U.S.-China trade deal on Jan. 15. Since October, negotiators from both countries have revealed details of a bilateral trade agreement that reportedly includes Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural products and U.S. services, plus China’s pledge to protect intellectual property and refrain from currency manipulation.
In addition, China agreed to lift additional tariffs on U.S. goods and gradually open its financial sector to foreign investors, including banking, securities and insurance. In return, the U.S. government will roll back some of the tariffs imposed against Chinese goods.
But how have these developments affected the bigger picture in U.S.-China relations, and Chinese public perceptions of the United States?
Despite the apparent de-escalation in the U.S.-China trade war, relations between Washington and Beijing remain tense. The United States has imposed sanctions on Chinese companies for buying Iranian oil and prohibited Huawei and other companies from acquiring U.S. parts and components without approval.
In the education sector, the FBI has urged U.S. universities to monitor Chinese students and scholars. Many U.S. universities closed Chinese-sponsored Confucius Institutes, concerned about their negative influences on academic freedom. In the political arena, China accused the United States of being involved in Hong Kong’s protests, while U.S. officials have criticized China’s actions against free passage in the South China Sea and labeled China a “strategic competitor.”
So how do people in China really feel about the United States?
Chinese images of the United States are complicated
In general, popular attitudes in China toward the United States are split. For example, a 2005 survey in Xiamen showed that the public was very positive about U.S. achievements in science and technology, education and the environment — but more negative about U.S. foreign policy toward China and the world.
The balance of positive and negative assessments varies with events in U.S.-China relations. The 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, led to anti-U.S. protests nationwide, and a Beijing survey that year showed a significant decline in the U.S. national image.
Chinese media also play a big role
Public understanding of international affairs is often very limited — particularly in China, where most of the 1.4 billion citizens have no direct experience with the United States. Their perceptions of the United States come mainly from information provided by the media, which is subject to Chinese government censorship.
The Chinese labor force has an average education level of about nine years, which means much of the Chinese public lacks a high level of political sophistication. The result is that a sizable portion of the Chinese public tends to defer to the government’s position. In surveys, many respondents indicate that they “don’t know” — although this proportion is somewhat lower among Chinese youth.
China’s Internet leaves few alternative sources of information
The rise of the Internet has completely changed political communication in China. In 2019, China had some 840 million Internet users — but relatively few in China access information from outside sources. The 2015 China Urban and Rural Governance Survey, for instance, found that less than 1 percent of respondents used foreign Internet sources as their main source of information.
Nonetheless, citizens in China have offered differing views on the trade war, including debates over free vs. fair trade, the rationality of U.S. government policy, and China’s own economic problems. But as U.S.-China relations grew increasingly tense, the domestic policy space for these debates has shrunk considerably. With Chinese government editorials proclaiming that China must prepare for a long struggle against the United States, few Chinese voices express positive views of America.
It’s not just about U.S. tariffs
Even if the United States rolls back tariffs on Chinese goods, moves to reduce economic, scientific and educational exchanges are likely to reduce sources of positive views of the United States.
Since the late Qing dynasty, millions of Chinese have gone to the United States to study. My research, for example, reveals that Chinese students and scholars who return from the United States have very positive feelings toward it. They understand the United States through their own experiences there, and convey these positive feelings to Chinese public, and this has contributed to a positive U.S. national image, especially with regard to achievements in education, science and technology.
There’s fallout from U.S. hard line rhetoric
But political tensions between the United States and China, along with the demographic and economic changes in China, have meant many U.S. colleges now report a decrease in students from China. The Chinese government has also warned students about the risk of studying in the United States. These shifts ultimately will affect not only the number of returning students who head back to China, but also their feelings toward the United States.
Other people-to-people connections — like working in a U.S.-invested company in China, traveling to the United States and buying U.S. goods and services — no doubt will contribute to a more favorable U.S. national image. But recent hard-line rhetoric by the U.S. government — and two U.S. bills related to human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang — are difficult for the Chinese government to ignore.
Beijing’s response to U.S. rhetoric is to take a more nationalistic and tough stance, to show that it protects Chinese public interests from foreign pressure. Even if the trade negotiations continue to bear fruit, the overall image of the United States in China will face continuing challenges.
Donglin Han is a professor in the School of International Studies and a research associate in the National Academy of Development and Strategy, Renmin University of China.
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