By Clay Chandler and Eamon Barrett
September 29, 2018

Next week is the Golden Week holiday on the Chinese mainland so likely a slow week for China news. But as far as China’s dealings with the United States goes, no news can only be good news.

Relations between the world’s two most powerful nations grow frostier by the day, and seem to be settling into a deep chill. Conflicts over trade and technology have erupted into round after round of tit-for-tat tariffs. Now those tensions are spreading to matters of security and diplomacy.

China is seething over the Trump administration’s decision last week to slap sanctions on a Chinese military agency for buying fighter jets from Russia. On Tuesday, China denied a US request for a Navy warship to make a port call to Hong Kong. That same day, the US approved a $330 million arms sale to Taiwan. On Wednesday, President Trump accused Beijing of plotting to interfere in US congressional elections in an attempt to punish him and the Republican Party for taking a tough line with China on trade. Now Reuters reports Beijing may cancel plans for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis to visit Beijing next month for the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue.

Meanwhile, China has become far less supportive of US efforts to pressure North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal, and Chinese president Xi Jinping has stepped up his appeal to countrymen to reduce their nation’s dependence on US technology. In a carefully choreographed tour of China’s northeastern Heilonjiang province earlier this week, the Chinese leader, thronged by adoring workers and farmers, extolled the virtues of building an “invincible” and “self-reliant” China. China’s state-controlled press is pushing the idea that there’s no point in negotiating with the US on trade because Trump’s tariffs are part of a broader plot to “contain China,” stunt its development, and thwart its rise as a global power.

From my vantage, communications between Beijing and Washington haven’t felt this strained since 1999, when US-led forces in NATO mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and 2001, when a Chinese jet fighter collided with a US spy plane forcing it to make an emergency landing on Hainan Island. For now, it’s hard to imagine how this destructive spiral might be reversed.

More China news below.

Clay Chandler
@claychandler
clay.chandler@timeinc.com

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