The US team is in Beijing for the big talks on whither the US-China trade relationship. There are no indications yet of where this might go – an exchange of hardening positions or an effort to find solutions. We will find out next week. But the vibe out there contains little that suggests a weakening of stance on either side at this point.
Early days. But anything either side does will increase the need for the other side to be seen to be not backing down and steps against Huawei appear imminent in Washington. The US side said before arrival they were not looking to change China’s system, which was big of them. And the Chinese said they wouldn’t negotiate key issues, which was helpful of them. It still looks like it could all get rocky.
A number of influential commentators including the FT’s Martin Wolf and the NYT’s Thomas Friedman got an earful of the Chinese side of the argument at a conference at Tsinghua University – the message was that China will not relent. But the question at the heart of all this – of which side needs which side more, China or the rest of the world – is increasingly likely to be tested.
Meanwhile, Marxism is getting more and more prominence in the Chinese media, in fact in the Chinese everything. It’s like 40 years ago, but then the Soviet Union still existed, and China was not state capitalist. So a TV show like “Marx Was Right” is an amazing thing to behold in 2018. Our view – he was, apart from minor issues such as human nature.
But actually it’s NOT like 40 years ago, because then the buzz phrase was not Marxism, but Marxist-Leninism. Which is ironic because Lenin casts a far clearer shadow in China today than Marx. The word Marxism as used today, we suspect, is really a code word for that grand old Chinese concept, Legalism. It all helps to highlight the systemic disconnect which will be sitting on the table during the Beijing talks.
Have a good weekend.