Trump\'s China Tariffs Divide US Business

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China is explicitly using tariffs as a wedge issue designed to split "apart different domestic groups in the US," according to leaked plans.

As a trade war looms between the two countries, Beijing issued a propaganda notice to Chinese media explaining the official game plan for handling the issue.

It was then leaked online and published by the censorship-monitoring site China Digital Times. Alongside instructions to avoid quoting President Donald Trump or other US officials and to focus instead on "economic brightspots," the government gave outlets a description of its trade strategy.

Vice Premier Liu, the notice said, "has indicated that this stage of the U.S.-China trade conflict requires calm and rationality."

It added: "We stop negotiation for now, acting tit for tat, roll out corresponding policies, hold public opinion at a good level without escalating it, limit scope, and strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups in US."

The US-China trade conflict has seen a series of actual tariffs and tariff threats made by the two countries. It had already been widely speculated that China's tariffs were targeting Trump's political base of support. This notice appears to be the first time the official government strategy has become public.

In April, China placed restrictions on imports of US soybeans, the bulk of which are produced in the Midwest — a region crucial for Trump's victory in the 2016 election. The president won eight of the top 10 soybean-producing states.

Shortly afterward, China placed a 179% tariff on US sorghum imports. The crop is grown in the Southern states — an area that also voted heavily for Trump. Kansas, which Trump won by more than 20 percentage points, is the top producer of sorghum, and trade media reported at the time that it would be "substantially hurt" by the measure.

According to the Brookings Institution, 82% of counties that were "exposed" to tariffs earlier this year supported Trump in 2016. This had the ability to affect more than 1 million jobs.

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