Home / Business / Is Trump Serious About Trade War? China’s Leaders Hunt for Answers

Is Trump Serious About Trade War? China’s Leaders Hunt for Answers

One sensitive question in Beijing is the fate of the Made in China 2025 plan, which has been the focus of the Trump administration’s complaints. The program would provide subsidies and loans to help Chinese firms acquire foreign competitors, develop advanced technologies and dominate key sectors such as alternative energy, robotics, telecom and artificial intelligence.

The military and security apparatus, and the industries close to them, regard the program as essential to China’s strategic ambitions. But discerning the attitude of China’s economic policymakers is more difficult, and not simply because it would be politically taboo to back away from a plan that Mr. Xi has blessed.

Premier Li Keqiang, for example, has tended to take more conciliatory positions in trade disputes than colleagues in the leadership who favor asserting China’s clout as a global power. But Mr. Li also leads a cluster of government ministers who are the main architects and advocates of the Made in China 2025 program.

They include Miao Wei, the minister of industry and information technology, and Wang Zhigang, the minister of science and technology. Like Mr. Li, both grew up in central China’s impoverished Anhui Province and favor an extensive role for the state in upgrading Chinese industries, acquaintances said.

On the other hand, the policymakers closest to Mr. Xi — men with finance backgrounds including Mr. Liu and Vice President Wang — are more interested in seeking geopolitical parity with the United States and less enthusiastic about industrial policy in general.

They worry that state intervention may distort markets and exacerbate the problems of China’s already debt-laden financial system, people who know them said.

Yet such concerns have not translated into a willingness to retreat on the Made in China 2025 program in the face of Mr. Trump’s threats. “I don’t think China is willing to compromise Made in China 2025,” said Da Wei, a professor at the University of International Relations in Beijing. “This is the core of the competition.”

Mr. Xi has charted a moderate course so far, retaliating in equal measure when the Trump administration has imposed tariffs, while urging that the dispute be resolved through negotiation.

But talks have stalled since Chinese officials rejected American demands that Made in China 2025 be rolled back. A Chinese spokesman said on Thursday that no actual trade negotiations were underway.

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News credit : Nytimes