The headlines on Sunday declared that China and the United States had agreed to pull back from a trade war and call an end to a round of escalating tariffs. The announcement followed a mission to Washington by Chinese vice-premier Liu He (刘鹤), a seasoned politician who is also known in China as one of the country’s top economists.
Details of the negotiations and the agreed-upon measures were as yet unclear, but there were reports that China had pledged to purchase more American goods and services, including agriculture and energy, in order to offset the trade imbalance.
As the news trickled back to China, comments on social media were mixed, with some users claiming that China got the upper hand and others suggesting President Trump — “the madman,” as some called him — managed to gain the advantage.
For reasons not entirely clear, quite a number of such posts offering speculation as to which side came out on top were deleted by censors from the popular Weibo platform. One reason might be that the authorities are keen to tone down any suggestion of having been forced into concessions. Another reason might be the impulse to offset language that seems to suggest bi-lateral trade is not, as China now likes to say, “win-win.”
In any case, the following is a selection of deleted Weibo posts. The last one deals with an obvious point of sensitivity, speculating (perhaps tongue in cheek) about whether or not it is possible that Google might “return” to China:
2018-05-20 04:23:55 | [Second round of China-US trade negotiations concluded, Premier He returns home] This round of China-US trade negotiations has ended, and He has returned to Beijing today. The Chinese side has concluded that “negotiations were positive, constructive and produced results.” The US gave no official assessment. Various information sources suggest: 1) China has agreed to increase imports of American products. The US side demanded that the Chinese side provide trade goals, tariff and non-tariff reforms, and new measures and results on the protection of intellectual property. 2) China’s concerted push for the US to let ZTE off the hook was unsuccessful.
2018-05-20 04:23:55 | 【中美贸易第二轮谈判结束，鹤总回国】这轮中美贸易谈判结束，鹤今天返京。中方结论是“谈判是积极的、有建设性的和富有成果的”。美方没有官方评价。从各种信息显示：1)中国承诺增加美国商品进口。美方要求中方提供贸易目标、关税和非关税改革和知识产权保护措施未果。2)中国极力让美国放行中兴未果。
2018-05-20 02:50:05 | [Ceasefire in China-US trade war! China-US issue joint statement on trade negotiations] the two sides agreed: 1) to make a substantive decrease in the gap in trade between China and the US; 2) to significantly increase US exports of agricultural and energy products to China; 3) to discuss trade in industrial products and services; 4) to increase cooperation on intellectual property protection. http://t.cn/R38fYnw
2018-05-20 02:50:05 | 【中美贸易战停火！中美就经贸磋商发表联合声明】双方同意：1、实质性减少美对华货物贸易逆差。2、有意义地增加美国农产品和能源出口。3、就扩大制造业产品和服务贸易进行讨论。4、加强知识产权保护合作。http://t.cn/R38fYnw
2018-05-20 07:28:16 | Judging from the content released, the madman won. How is that? After all, you can’t enforce protections forever [on China’s side], and domestic consumers [in China] have received real benefit. Besides, when other things are discussed later on, it’s hard to say things won’t take a wrong turn.
2018-05-20 07:28:16 | 从公布的内容看，疯子赢了。又如何呢？反正不可能永远护着，国内消费者也得到了实质利好。另外后续还有东西谈，说不准还会出岔子
2018-05-20 09:00:23 | The crux of China-US trade negotiations: the attempts by the American Empire to throttle the China 2025 plan have dematerialized. This is the most fundamental. The other points of compromise — or kneeling, to put it more sharply — are small matters. Of course, given Trump’s erratic character, and the fact that there is now already an anti-China consensus in America, this will not be the last we hear of this. I personally think that it’s far from over, especially with respect to the midterm elections. Friction between China and the US will get more and more severe. In order to satisfy the growing consumption of the Chinese people . . . . [Full text]
2018-05-20 09:00:23 | 中美协议的关键在于：美帝扼杀中国制造2025的内容已经消失了 这才是最根本的 其他暂时的妥协，乃至说难听点，跪，都是小节 不过按床铺反复的性格，以及美国内已经形成反华共识 这次不是是一张一弛，个人认为远未结束，特别是中期选举后，中美之间的交锋只会越演越烈 为满足中国人民不断增长的消费…全文： http://m.weibo.cn/1365426941/4241676820233822
2018-05-20 08:14:58 | So, will Google be returning [to China] this time around?
2018-05-20 08:14:58 | 此次谷歌会不会回来？