China on Wednesday blamed US' flip-flop attitude and lack of sincerity in reaching a trade deal as the 12th round of talks between top trade officials of the two countries ended without a breakthrough in Shanghai after US President Donald Trump's twitter tirade against Beijing.
Since the commencement of trade war last year China and US have so far hit each other with punitive tariffs covering more than USD 360 billion in two-way trade. Trump kicked off the trade war demanding China to reduce massive trade deficit which last year climbed to over USD 539 billion. He is also insisting on China to workout verifiable measures for protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.
The talks between top trade negotiators from China and US, the first after they broke down in May, lasted just half a day and ended with no sign of a breakthrough, but a willingness to continue discussions.
The talks were held in Shanghai unlike the previous rounds which took place in Beijing and Washington. The abrupt end of talks sparked speculation that a trade deal was unlikely before the 2020 US presidential elections.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took part in the talks with a Chinese delegation headed by Vice Premier Liu He. The talks were relatively brief and the US officials left for the airport without speaking to reporters.
While China has not officially commented on the outcome of the talks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying in her media briefing in Beijing hit back at Trump's barrage of tweets against China.
Seen as an attempt to increase pressure on China, Trump tweeted on Tuesday saying his team is "negotiating with them now, but they always change the deal in the end to their benefit."
Trump said China was supposed to start buying US agricultural products but they have shown "no signs that they are doing so". "That is the problem with China, they just don't come through," he tweeted.
Trump said that China is waiting for the next presidential elections and hopes that he will be defeated and then they can talk with his next Democratic successor. He warned that if he wins re-election in the November 2020 US presidential contest, the outcome could be no agreement or a worse one.
Reacting to Trump's tweets, Hua said, "the US is the one that has flip-flopped in the whole process. It doesn't make any sense for the US to exert pressure for maximum campaign. I believe the US should show more sincerity and good faith."
She also reacted sharply to Trump's comments that the Chinese economy is doing badly. "You say Chinese economy is not that good. It is obvious fact that China's GDP in the second quarter is 6.2 per cent. The US GDP is lower (2.1 per cent). Who is better is very obvious fact. I believe the exercise of maximum pressure is not constructive at all.
What matters is that we have to show sincerity, mutual respect and good faith to resolve our differences and concerns. I believe this makes the only right way forward," she said.
Commenting on the US ban on Huawei, she also took pot-shots at Trump saying that US business suppliers are now anxious to do business with the Chinese telecom giant which on Tuesday announced an increase of 23.2 per cent revenue year-on-year to USD 58.3 billion in the first half of this year.
"Increasing number of US business hope they can supply parts to Huawei. So I believe it is the American business that are the more anxious about it. We have full confidence in Huawei and it is the US that is most worried," she said.
The US has banned Huawei, the world's leader in telecom equipment and the number two smartphone producer, over concerns of security and Washington has been pressuring other countries to restrict the operations of the Chinese telecom firm.
Reacting to abrupt end to the 12th round of trade talks, observers said China seems to be watching the US presidential race with interest, to see how it will affect trade policy.
"China has started to buy soybeans from the US, which could help Trump to counter domestic political pressure, meanwhile US tech firms have raised their voices to lobby the US administration to loosen export controls on Huawei," said Wang Yong, a professor of international relations with Peking University.
"Wall Street bankers also hope to invest more in China. If both sides fail to reach a deal, they will lose China's market which is expected to further open up in the coming years,” he told the South China Morning Post.
In addition to buying more agricultural products, Beijing may also promise to change some of its regulations to make it easier for foreign businesses to operate in the country, according to Pang Zhongying, an international relations expert with Ocean University of China. But, he said, the Wednesday meeting would not go far beyond a signal that they were talking, with neither side rushing for a deal.