Amid the ongoing diplomatic spat between Washington DC and Beijing, which now also includes the deployment of B-1B bombers and warships in the South China Sea, late on Monday (local time) China's Global Times reported, citing sources close to the Chinese government, that some "hawkish" officials in China are calling for a renegotiation the the "phase one" trade deal with Washington as well as a "tit-for-tat approach on spiraling trade issues after US' malicious attacks on China ignited a tsunami of anger among Chinese trade insiders."
The calls to renegotiate the current version of the deal - which has yet to be actively implemented - emerge amid dissatisfaction because "China has made compromise for the deal to press ahead."
While in the past, these same trade negotiators "believed that it would be worthwhile to make certain compromise to reach a partial truce in the 22-month trade war and ease escalating tensions", given what the Global Times called "President Donald Trump's hyping an anti-China conspiracy that aims to cover up his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic", advisors close to the trade talks have suggested Chinese officials rekindling the possibility of invalidating the trade pact and negotiating a new one to tilt the scales more to the Chinese side, sources close the matter told the Global Times.
A former Chinese trade official told the Global Times on condition of anonymity on Monday that China could complete such procedures based on force majeure provisions in the pact.
"It's in fact in China's interests to terminate the current phase one deal. It is beneficial to us. The US now cannot afford to restart the trade war with China if everything goes back to the starting point," another trade advisor to the Chinese government told the Global Times, pointing to the staggering US economy and the coming of the US presidential election this year.
"After signing the phase one deal, the US intensifies crackdown in other areas such as technology, politics and the military against China. So if we don't retreat on trade issues, the US could be trapped," the former official noted.
Some could disagree, and counter that Trump can certainly restart the trade war especially since it suits his pre-election agenda - after all, now that the fate of the market is entirely in the hands of the Fed which has gone full MMT, Trump is no longer afraid by the market's response to a renewed trade war. In fact, with over 60% of the US population seeking to distance US from China, it would appear that Trump's best bet to winning independent votes is precisely to keep hammering China.
Confirming this, Trump said on Friday that he was "very torn" about whether to end the China-US phase one deal, Fox News reported, with some observers interpreting his words as equating to a threat from the US to re-launch a trade war against China.
Then again, over the weekend, the SCMP reported that US source familiar with recent discussions stated US officials acknowledged China was largely delivering its pledges on structural issues such as opening market access and improving IP protection but they have yet to agree in some details including IP action plan and easing equity caps for foreign investors. Furthermore, the source stated fallout from the virus meant agreement on purchasing US goods has become much more important and that many believe China needs to increase pace on purchases.
Meanwhile, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who advises the government on trade issues, told the Global Times on Monday that China has "well documented" Washington's usual threats after previous rounds of confrontation. That means if the trade war restarts, "China knows how to respond, and it is able to retaliate quickly and inflict serious harm on the US economy," Gao said.
Still, as the Global Times concludes, analysts noted that terminating the phase one trade deal would be China's "last option" and one that China would only resort to under extremely hostile conditions.