In a bid to minimize tensions both diplomatically and in the financial markets, a memo from the Chinese government was distributed to reporters outlining instructions on how to cover the tariff battle with America.
The document was seen by Reuters, who reported on Wednesday that one excerpt read: “When exposing and criticizing American words and actions, be careful not to link it to Trump and instead to aim it at the U.S. government.”
Although the source was not disclosed, Chinese news site China Digital Times published a “propaganda notice,” which listed the do’s and don’ts for reporters covering the sensitive issue.
The notice forbade the media from relaying any “U.S. news reports or commentary on the trade conflict without waiting for response from the Ministry of Commerce,” and urges calm messaging to prevent further escalation of the economic chess match.
While disclosing a strategy of “splitting apart different domestic groups in U.S.,” the notice explains: “The trade conflict is really a war against China’s rise, to see who has the greater stamina. This is absolutely no time for irresolution or reticence.”
Further, reporters were told specifically, “Don’t attack Trump’s vulgarity; don’t make this a war of insults.”
China is no stranger to trade fights, but their approach toward the U.S. is being handled differently than prior battles. During similar disagreements with countries like the Philippines and France, Chinese media went on the attack.
Attempting to calm the rhetoric surrounding the trade war isn’t the only way China is shifting strategy. Chinese diplomats have sought to build alliances in Washington while making the case for how U.S. investment in China is mutually beneficial for the two countries.
Economist Max Zenglein of Berlin’s Merics Institute said, “The U.S. is a larger-scale, and a different kind of economic power than Japan or Korea. That makes this quite unique.”
Zenglein added: “When dealing with the U.S. it is clear that they [China] are more vulnerable and so that forces them to take a different approach.”