Thought-provoking details about Chinese delegation’s arrival in the U.S.
Liu Hong

Editor's note: This article is an edited translation from a Chinese story initially published in the WeChat official account of Bullpiano on January 29, 2019. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

There is no trivial matter in foreign affairs. Every detail conveys a message.

On January 28, a high-level Chinese delegation arrived in Washington D.C. for the upcoming China-U.S. trade talks. Three details about the visit merit our special attention.

1. Timing

After the Chinese delegation arrived in the United States, China's Xinhua News Agency released a brief message:

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrived in Washington D.C. on Monday afternoon for the upcoming high-level economic and trade consultations with the United States. Liu, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chief of the Chinese side of the China-U.S. comprehensive economic dialogue, leads a delegation with members from major industrial sectors of the Chinese government.

Combined photo shows Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. /VCG Photo.

Combined photo shows Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. /VCG Photo.

January 28, 2019, is the Minor Chinese New Year (which falls on the 23rd or 24th of the final month in the lunar calendar, one week away from the Chinese New Year) in northern China. With its most important festival and holiday around the corner, China sent the high-level delegation to the United States for consultation, which demonstrates its utmost sincerity and good faith.

2. The United States issued a timely statement to welcome the Chinese delegation.

This is very unusual.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders started the statement with the following:

“Today, President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States will welcome an official delegation from China for a series of meetings from January 30 to 31, 2019, to discuss the trade relationship between the two countries.

VCG Photo.

VCG Photo.

For the United States, the trade discussions will be led by United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer and include Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Larry Kudlow, and Assistant to the President for Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro. The United States principals will be accompanied by senior officials from the White House, USTR, and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, State, and the Treasury.”

The statement is “unusual” in that such statements made by the U.S. side were very rare in previous U.S. negotiations with China and with other countries.

In particular, it should be mentioned that President Trump personally expressed his welcome in the statement.

3. Early announcement of Trump's meeting with Liu He

There is another noteworthy detail related to President Trump. On January 28, Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, said at a press conference that he was looking forward to “significant progress” in the consultation. He announced that U.S. President Trump would meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He after the consultation.

White House spokeswoman Sanders made a similar statement.

This may also indicate the great importance the U.S. attaches to this consultation.

VCG Photo.

VCG Photo.

The unprecedented trade war between China and the United States has lasted nearly one year from spring to winter 2018. The next spring is not far away.

The above-mentioned details convey three key messages.

1. China is under pressure, so is the United States.

There will be no winners from a trade war. Some Chinese enterprises and industries are already suffering.

The United States is also under pressure. The recent turbulence in the US stock market, in the view of most economists, is due to the escalation of the trade war, which has dramatically undermined the confidence of American investors.

In addition, the Federal Government of the United States has set a record of the longest shutdown, and the country is looking forward to some good news. This may also be the reason why the United States is particularly concerned with this round of trade talks.

2. The road towards a win-win partnership may not be smooth.

VCG Photo.

VCG Photo.

On the same day the Chinese delegation arrived in Washington D.C., the United States filed a total of 23 criminal charges against Huawei, and it will seek the extradition of Huawei Financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. Both are telltale actions of the political intention of the United States.

On the one hand, the U.S. welcomes the Chinese delegation's visit to the United States for trade talks; on the other hand, there are still some forces that intentionally make trouble.

3. For China, it is more important to run its own affairs well.

China-U.S. relations are vital, and China is indeed resolving differences through dialogue and consultation in the utmost sincerity; but more importantly, China should run its own affairs well and stay committed to its cause of reform and opening-up.

At the APEC CEO Summit 2018, Chinese president Xi Jinping said:

“History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a cold war, a hot war or a trade war, will produce no winners. We believe that there exist no issues that countries cannot resolve through consultation as long as they handle these issues in a spirit of equality, mutual understanding and accommodation.

Each era faces problems of its day. Problems themselves are not to be afraid of; what truly matters is for us to take a right approach to resolve the problems. China and the US should avoid conflict and confrontation, and build a relationship that features mutual respect and win-win co-operation.”

Trade talks in the next few days will be a battle of wits. We should be rational about the outcomes and calm in the face of setbacks. That is the poise of a major country.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, contact us at opinions@cgtn.com.)