Meeting with US visitors to Beijing in recent weeks, senior Chinese officials have reportedly narrowed the range of topics they’re willing to discuss, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Vice Premier Liu He, who will lead the Chinese contingent in high-level talks that begin Thursday, told visiting dignitaries he would bring an offer to Washington that won’t include commitments on reforming Chinese industrial policy or government subsidies, which were the target of longstanding US complaints and one of Trump’s core demands, one of the sources said.
Analysts have suggested to Bloomberg that the shift was caused by the impeachment inquiry the Trump administration is facing. However, people familiar with the matter said the impeachment inquiry isn’t affecting trade talks with China. Any attempt to portray anything different is an attempt to weaken the US hand at the negotiating table and, they argue, would be a miscalculation by the Chinese.
China’s leadership “are interpreting the impeachment discussion as a weakening of Trump’s position, or certainly a distraction,” said Jude Blanchette, an expert on China’s elite politics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Their calculation is that Trump needs a win” and is willing to make compromises on substance as a result, he said.
Trump has repeatedly said he would accept only an all-encompassing deal with China.
“We’ve had good moments with China. We’ve had bad moments with China. Right now, we’re in a very important stage in terms of possibly making a deal,” Trump told reporters on Friday. “But what we’re doing is we’re negotiating a very tough deal. If the deal is not going to be 100% for us, then we’re not going to make it.”