China’s President Xi Jinping invoked the culturally poignant reference of the ‘Long March’ in the most dramatic sign to date that Beijing has little hope of reaching a trade deal with the US in the near term.
“Now there is a new Long March, and we should make a new start,” Xi told a cheering crowd Monday in Jiangxi Province as he started a domestic tour accompanied by his top trade negotiator, Liu He, in footage posted on state broadcaster CCTV’s website.
Xi made the remarks at the historic site of the start of Mao Zedong’s fabled Long March of 1934 – a 6,400 km journey that took more than a year and would ultimately lead to the ousting 15 years later of the Nationalists to what is now Taiwan, by Mao and the Communists.
While Xi did not directly reference the ongoing trade war with the US, his remarks are understood to be a clear signal to the Chinese populous that hard times are coming as a result of the worsening external environment.
Hopes that a deal would be reached between the two countries evaporated in early May when the two sides failed to reach a final agreement in the 11th round of talks, with President Trump subsequently accusing China of breaking terms that had already been settled.
The official Xinhua News Agency on Monday claimed that “bullying by the US side” was the cause of the failed trade talks.
“The People’s Republic [of China] has been standing tall in the East for the last 70 years, it has never lowered its head and it has never feared anyone,” Xinhua reports. “History will prove again that bullying and threats by the US will not work.”
Only days after the US raised tariffs on 10 May on USD 200 billion of Chinese imports to 25 per cent from 10 per cent, Beijing said it would raise duties on USD 60 billion of American goods on 1 June.
The Chinese economy is already slowing and the trade war could shave as much as 1.0 per cent from its gross domestic product, according to analysts.
Xi and his entourage visited rare earths mine in the city of Gangzhou on Monday. China is the largest source of the minerals, which are used in electronic devices from computers to cell phones and could be used as a key bargaining chip by China.