Chinese media turning up the heat as US-China trade war drags on

Beijing's anti-US rhetoric has been on the rise as American content disappears.

May 28, 2019, 12:02 PM

Hong Kong -- In the year that trade talks between the United States and China have faltered repeatedly, China's state media has mostly played down the escalating trade war between world’s two largest economies.

But that changed in mid-May, after Beijing’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, returned from Washington without a deal, or even the promise of another round of talks, and both countries announced tariff hikes on the other's goods.

Since then, China's state media has been turning up the heat. And American content, like the "Game of Thrones" finale, have disappeared.

“Talk? Our door is wide open. Fight? We will accompany you to the end,” CCTV newscaster Kang Hui said May 13, in opening the national evening news program, "Xinwen Lianbo," which is broadcast by every station in China. "“Having experienced disturbances for well over 5,000 years, what kind of battle formation has the Chinese nation not seen?”

The next day, People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published a poster on its social media accounts, titled: "This is China’s Attitude!" Against the backdrop of the Chinese five-starred flag and an image of container port, it read: "Talk? Sure. Fight? Will accompany you! Bully us? In your dreams!”

CCTV’s movie channel began airing Cold War-era anti-American films set during the Korean War, which is known in China as the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea.

This change in tone reportedly came soon after a crucial meeting in Beijing earlier that Monday, at which China's President Xi Jinping secured a consensus from the 25-member Politburo of the Communist Party to take harder line against the US, according to reports by Nikkei Asian Review and the and the South China Morning Post.

Meanwhile, American content has been falling victim to China’s censors.

The series finale of HBO's Game of Thrones, has yet to be broadcast in China. A hour before the show was due to begin, HBO's content partner in China, Tencent, said there was a problem on a "media transmission problem." But The Wall Street Journal disputed that account, and quoted an unnamed HBO spokesperson that it had been blocked because of the trade dispute. A spokesman for Tencent, Han Chaowei, told ABC News that the company has no further comment on the issue.

Entgroup, which tracks Chinese box office receipts, reported that "Avengers: Endgame," released by ABC News' parent company The Walt Disney Co., has been denied a routine theatrical extension, despite being the highest-grossing American film in Chinese box office history, earning more than $611 million in less a month. A China Film Distribution Company employee who would only give his surname, Chen, confirmed to ABC News that there will be no extension, and that no reason has been given.

Boycotts are not new to Beijing's propaganda arsenal.

When South Korea deployed a U.S. missile system in 2016, China instituted an unofficial "Boycott Korea Order," and no major K-pop stars -- who are massively popular in China -- have performed in mainland China since then. Online media outlets in China are questioning whether this is the American version of what happened to South Korea's K-pop stars.

Chinese state media has drawn parallels between the current dispute with the United States, and what China's propagandists have termed the “Century of Humiliation” prior to the Communist Party coming into power, when foreign powers forced Qing Dynasty China to open its doors to trade through unequal treaties. U.S. President Donald Trump has said that trade with China cannot be a ''50-50'' deal, and that he would only settle for an agreement that favors the United States.

This week while rhetorical proxy wars will continue to rage as Fox Business anchor Trish Regan is set to debate China’s CGTN anchor Liu Xin after an online spat over the trade war, there are signs that Beijing may be beginning to reign it in somewhat.

It seems that China will only let the war of words go so far.

Last week, a music video for song called “Trade War” started making the rounds on Chinese social media. A homemade cover of a 1960’s anti-Japanese movie theme song, it contained updated lyrics, like: “not afraid of this outrageous challenge, a trade war is happening over the Pacific Ocean,” and “If the perpetrator wants to fight, we will beat him out of his wits.”

And just as the video began to go viral, the video started disappearing.

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