The Chinese state media has invoked former President Teddy Roosevelt’s “Big Stick” rhetoric in addressing President-elect Donald Trump’s discussions of possible tariffs.
“There are flowers around the gate of China’s Ministry of Commerce, but there are also big sticks hidden inside the door — they both await Americans,” the Chinese Global Times newspaper wrote in an opinion piece on Thursday. The statement from the Communist Party’s official news outlet came after President-elect Trump nominated Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to be U.S. Trade Representative.
“Ambassador Lighthizer is going to do an outstanding job representing the United States as we fight for good trade deals that put the American worker first,” Trump said in a statement reported by Breitbart News. “He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy, and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans. He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity.”
“I am fully committed to President-elect Trump’s mission to level the playing field for American workers and forge better trade policies which will benefit all Americans,” Lighthizer said after being introduced by the President-elect. Lighthizer previously served in the Reagan Administration as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative.
Since that time, the Chinese newspaper reported, the former trade ambassador has spent three decades representing U.S. steelmakers and other companies in anti-dumping cases. Lighthizer argued that China specifically has failed to honor its commitments to the World Trade Organization when it joined in 2001, Breitbart reported.
The Chinese also reacted harshly last month when the President-elect nominated Peter Navarro to head the White House National Trade Council, Breitbart News reported. Navarro is the author of a book and film titled Death by China. Cui Fan, with China’s Society of WTO Studies think-tank warned, “China is preparing itself for US trade actions.” He pledged that China would “respond with counteractions of its own.”
Trump came out early in his campaign looking for ways to improve the American economy by creating “fair trade, not free trade.”
In a 60 Minutes interview by Scott Pelley conducted in September 2015, the interviewer challenged then-candidate Trump saying, “If you’re president, you’re going to have to live with it,” Pelley said referencing NAFTA. “Excuse me,” Trump responded. “(E)very agreement has an end. Every agreement has to be fair,” Trump reiterated. “Every agreement has a defraud clause. We’re being defrauded by all these countries.”
“Scott, we need fair trade. Not free trade,” Trump continued. “We need fair trade. It’s got to be fair.”
The campaign was consistently critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal negotiated by President Barack Obama. Trump’s campaign trade adviser Curtis Ellis told Breitbart News Daily in an August 2016 interview with then-Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon, “That is the message that will win this election,” Ellis said, before adding: “When he does these big rallies, he spends a good chunk of time talking about the jobs, talking about trade.”
He said that Trump “is the only man who says that I will withdraw from it if the lame duck passes.” The bill did not pass as President Obama withdrew the proposal from consideration days after President-elect Trump’s election.
The Global Times also expressed concerns that the President-elect my strengthen ties with Russia in building trade barriers with China. They called Trump a “gambler” who would play all his cards. The editorial claims there is not much to gain in a trade war with China.
The threats from China this week are part of an on-going campaign by the Global Times. Breitbart News reported in November 2016 that China threatened to halt the import of U.S. soybean and maize crops, in addition to other products. “U.S. auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and U.S. soybean and maize imports will be halted,” the Chinese newspaper threatened.
“My prediction is that China, recognizing that for the first time they are dealing with an American president who is serious about righting the trade imbalance, will come to the negotiating table before this happens,” Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute and author of The Bully in Asia, wrote in the November article.
“For the time being, expect China’s leaders to continue to bluster and bully, even as it becomes increasingly clear to them that their threats are having absolutely no effect on President-elect Trump,” Mosher concluded. “Then, just before Trump slaps them with tariffs—and serious damage is done to China’s economy–they will agree to sit down and negotiate a reasonable accommodation on matters of trade.”