Over the last week, China’s state media outlets have called the US government delusional, compared it to apes shouting on a river bank, and offered to teach the Americans a Chinese idiom: diandao heibai, “to invert black and white”, or deliberately distort the truth.
As trade tensions mount between the US and China, Beijing faces the difficult task of appealing to national pride to shore up confidence in the leadership while also keeping public anger in check.
As US-China ties have deteriorated over the last year, Chinese officials and state media have been relatively restrained. Official statements refer to “trade frictions” with the US, rather than a “trade war”, and have been careful not to name Donald Trump directly or criticise the country as a whole.
“They want to send the message that they are being firm, that they are in control, that China’s economy is healthy and capable of self-sufficiency,” said David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project, a research programme affiliated with the University of Hong Kong.