A report claiming that President Trump would be meeting with senior aides on Thursday to discuss whether the US should move ahead with its next round of tariffs has apparently rankled the higher-ups in Beijing. Because Global Times editor Hu Xijin, a popular mouthpiece for the Communist Party, tweeted a rebuttal Thursday morning, warning that "China will surely retaliate" If Washington moves ahead with the Dec. 15 tariffs.
"Such a trade war escalation scenario has been played several times," Hu warned, referring to the previous truces declared between China and the US during the 17-month trade fight, before adding that history would reflect poorly on Trump for walking away from the table.
The warning from Beijing is clear: If Washington moves ahead with the tariff hikes, there will be hell to pay, and we can forget about a trade deal before next year's election.
Reuters initially reported that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, US Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer, and White House advisers Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro would be involved in the meeting.
The US is set to impose an additional 15 percentage points of tariffs on about $160 billion Chinese exports on Dec. 15. With USMCA now a done deal, President Trump has more leverage to rush a deal with China.
Recently, Peter Navarro, the Trump advisor and one of the administration's top trade hawks, warned during an interview with Fox Business that Beijing has recently mastered the art of "shaping the narrative" with strategic leaks to Western media, claiming that trade-related leaks from earlier in the week "came from the Chinese not our side."
Trump has a history of not responding well to provocation, and this latest threat from the Chinese is clearly that – a threat. Perhaps Navarro – who has been known to leak to Reuters – is simply trying to regain control of the narrative for the hawks?