Despite ongoing trade friction, no boycott against US products due to two nations’ intertwined interests

By Zhang Yu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/18 19:38:39

Chinese netizens exhibit confidence and support for China in the trade showdown with the US

In general, Chinese netizens are relatively calm over the trade row, and are not calling for boycotts

Designing a boycott that would harm the US but not China would be difficult, because the economies are so intertwined

A security guard walks past a Tesla showroom in Beijing on July 7. Photo: VCG

Two weeks into the China-US trade row, Chinese netizens have been heatedly following and discussing on social media the results and ramifications of the dispute for China's politics and economy.

Many netizens are showing support and confidence for China in the trade row, with many expressing solidarity with the Chinese government. Some even likened the conflict to the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

Military commentator Dai Xu, for example, wrote furiously on social media site Weibo, "China didn't fear the Japanese invaders back then, how will it be afraid of Trump! Let's fight! Fight for another eight years, and I don't believe he will be able to rival China."

Others have maintained their composure. Massive boycotts that occurred when other countries politically clashed with China did not occur this time.

Experts say China's deepened relations with the US over the past 40 years are a major reason why a massive boycott hasn't occurred.

Wide support

On Chinese social media, many netizens voiced their support for China to fight back against the US in the trade showdown.

Sima Pingbang, a nationalist Chinese blogger and commentator, thinks a war is inevitable as China's rise in economic, military and technical power threatens the US.

"Although China and the US have cooperated economically for a long time, by nature they are still two countries with disparate ideology, political systems and culture. And they're bound to return to the track of opposition and confrontation," he told the Global Times.

Some netizens even compared the trade row with imperialist aggressions nearly a century ago. But as China rises to become the second-largest economy in the world, Chinese people think the trade friction is a great opportunity to exhibit the nation's power.

"Today's China isn't China in 1937," a user on Weibo wrote, referring to the year when the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression broke out into full-scale combat. "We should respond to the war firmly, and fight to the death with courage," the user said.

Another netizen commented, "If we are forced into war, then we should not surrender. Even though it's clear that there are no winners in the conflict, I will stay with my country."

Another echoed this theme, saying, "If Trump fights a trade war with China he is bound to lose. There are no winners in a trade conflict, but the economic losses of the US will definitely exceed China's, although China will suffer losses too."

A commentary in the People's Daily published on July 7 warned, "The US must understand the reality that any big stick of trade protectionism will not frighten or beat China. The diligent, wise and courageous Chinese people never feared any external pressure. As a responsible global power, China has a clear understanding that winning the trade row will teach the US that being a bully in trade has no future; China is also defending the world trade order and creating a bright future for global development."

Systematic advantage

Although there are usually no winners in a trade row, many netizens are confident that China will gain an upper hand. China's political structure is cited by many as one of the main reasons.

Mei Xinyu, a researcher at a think tank under the Ministry of Commerce, wrote in the People's Daily that China's political system will be the nation's fundamental source of strength as it braces for the trade row.

Compared with Western countries, which he said are characterized by "endless fights between parties, words over actions, unpredictable changes of policies, and a lack of determination and action," the Chinese political system is "highly efficient" and "accountable."

"China's democratic centralism can attract wisdom from different areas and at the same time make highly efficient decisions. The congress in Western countries, however, often descends into a state where 'everyone has a say but no one is responsible,' … and efficiency deteriorates," he wrote in the People's Daily on Monday.

He was echoed by Sima Pingbang. "The power structure of the US is very different from China. Nothing about the trade row in the US is predictable except the power of the president," he said.

The fact that the US has been disrupting the world economic order in the past few months by launching trade wars with different countries is another reason why many netizens believe the US is bound to lose.

"The reason why the US could surpass Britain and the Soviet Union was that it was more open and inclusive. Now, sadly, even the US has reached this narrow-minded stage," Sima Pingbang said.

"The Trump administration has been fighting the world trade system and globalization, and fighting the common interest of humankind. In the long term, this is not favorable to the US, and yet Trump isn't so far-sighted," Sima Nan, another blogger known for his nationalist views, wrote on Weibo.

He also joked that Trump has given a patriotic lesson, allowing the Chinese public to be more united.

In the meantime, Chinese media have been covering the losses suffered by US farmers, especially soy bean farmers, as prices for soybeans in the US dropped in recent months, making people believe that US citizens also do not want the war to be waged.

Calm and collected

The fury of some nationalists, however, did not expand to mainstream Chinese netizens and consumers, nor did it escalate into a nation-wide boycott against US products.

Patriotic Chinese netizens are known to organize boycotts against countries that have political conflicts with China. I

n 2008, after the Beijing Olympic torch relay, en route in Paris, was disrupted by advocates of Tibet separatists, angry Chinese Internet users called on consumers to boycott Carrefour, the French supermarket chain with stores in China.

Last year, South Korea's plan to work with the US on the THAAD anti-missile system triggered a sweeping boycott by Chinese consumers against South Korea's products, tourism and even K-pop stars.

KFC, the fast food chain from the US, was also boycotted in some cities in 2016 after an international tribunal rejected China's historic claims to the South China Sea and some netizens accused the US of exerting influence.

Social media, however, is relatively calm following the trade friction. Known cases of action against the US include a Shenzhen-based hotel group which charged 25 percent more to US guests, its staff told the Global Times earlier. Another restaurant allegedly asked 25 percent more for US customers, according to pictures circulating on social media.

Other than the fact that a trade showdown sounds more economic than political, Sima said part of the reason is that the trade relations between China and the US have been so close that it is difficult to tell the interest of China and the US apart.

"The reason why some Chinese people could boycott South Korean products or French supermarkets, for example, is that China was not that closely connected with these countries. But the US is different. Neither China nor the US can completely boycott each other," he said.

Another reason, he admits, is that the US has had a huge impact on every aspect of China for the past 40 years, including its pop culture, education and lifestyle, in addition to its economy, and a boycott is unrealistic.

"Its importance to China is more than 10 times that of South Korea. Even though I don't like that, I have to say its impact is there, and a boycott is hard to achieve," he said.

Newspaper headline: War footing

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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