Via Sinocism today:
The phase one trade deal speculation is over, but the criticism is just beginning.
On Monday Taoran Notes, written by someone I hear travels with Liu He during his trade talks with the US, published for the first time in over two months. The post, a defense of the deal clearly targeting domestic criticism, used the phrase 里外不是人 to say that there would be complaints regardless of what is in the deal. 里外不是人 comes from the longer 猪八戒照镜子，里外不是人, or Zhu Bajie looks in the mirror, neither he or his reflection are human.
From the texts of the deal (English, 中文) the US looks to have scored some wins at the margin, and some of the language, such as the fact (thanks to an eagle-eyed subscriber) that there are 105 times of “China shall”, 60 times of “the Parties shall”, 5 times of “the United States shall”, and 27 times of “the United States affirms”, could clearly be construed in China as bowing to US pressure. In response we are seeing a very concerted PRC media effort to control the narrative and insist that the deal is balanced and fair and that China did not compromise any core interests.
Zhu Bajie of course is the character from Journey to the West, also known in some translations as “Pigsy” or “Pig”.
I do not think the author of Taoran Notes meant to call this deal a pig, but overall it does look a bit like a pig of a deal.
Taoran Notes wrote about the deal again today. I have translated some of the interesting parts as I think it is worth reading to get even a sliver of insight into what Liu He himself may be thinking-如何看待中美签署第一阶段经贸协议?:
First, it is a deal that some on both sides are unhappy with, but it is also one that most can accept 首先，这是份两边都有人不太满意，但又大致能接受的协议…
the basic contents of the phase one agreement are as follows 签署后的第一阶段协议基本内容大致是如下几条
We will deepen two-way cooperation in trade, relax market access and open up the financial sector in both directions, commit to strengthen intellectual property protection, establish bilateral assessment and dispute settlement arrangements, and move from raising tariffs to lowering them. 深化贸易领域双向合作、放宽市场准入扩大金融领域双向开放、
On the Chinese side, some people believe that the US side has not made a lot of concessions in tariffs and that China has made too many commitments to the US side in purchasing goods. Some people even believe that, given the repeated performance of the US side in the past two years, it is hard to say whether the US side will repeat the same tricks and there is no need to sign the agreement. 中方这边，有人认为美方关税退让幅度不大，
对美方商品采购的承诺太多，甚至有观点认为， 以美方在过去两年中的反复表现，很难讲会不会故伎重演， 实在没必要签署。
The US side is also not satisfied. Some people think the China-US economic and trade agreement is too weak 美方那边，也不太满意，有人认为中美经贸协议太过软弱。…
In fact, from Taoran’s point of view, this may be the current state of relative advantage for both sides. As we analyzed in the eleventh round of consultations in May ’19 — 其实在陶然笔记看来，这或许是当下对双方都相对有利的状态。
“Negotiations between the two countries, if they come up with an outcome that neither side is satisfied with but which is generally acceptable, that will be successful and that will be implemented more smoothly. “If it is an agreement that is particularly satisfactory to one side, regardless of the interests and demands of the other side, then even if it is signed, it may not be implemented, and the consequences are endless.” “两国磋商，
如果谈出一个两边都不是很满意但又大致能够接受的结果， 那就是成功的，执行起来也会顺利一些。 如果只是单方面特别满意的协议，而无视另一方的利益和诉求， 那么即便是签署了也未必能够落地，而且后患无穷。”
The author refutes the idea pushed by some (especially Trump though he does not say so directly) that the US achieved a victory, then goes on to say that China basically agreed to what was agreed to in the November 2017 Xi-Trump summit in Beijing.
He concludes with what he says are the key questions that stick with him after two years of the trade war:
Why would the US start a trade war? Was it possible for China to avoid this conflict? 为什么美方会挑起贸易战?中国有没有可能避免这场冲突?
Facing this trade war, how did China do? How is our development and how is our confidence and stamina on the face of it? 应对这场贸易战，中国做得怎么样?我们发展的成色如何，
On the road to National Rejuvenation, external pressures are ceaselessly emerging. What kind of mentality and actions should the Chinese people take to deal with them? How do we develop the mentality of big country citizens? 在走向复兴的路上，外部压力层出不穷，
Under the new historical conditions, what kind of relationship should China and the United States seek, and how do we achieve a smooth transition from the current state to the new state? 新的历史条件下，中美该寻找什么样的相处之道，
Will there be “decoupling” between China and the US? 中美之间会不会“脱钩”?
He says some of these questions already have answers, but does not elaborate.
My own view remains that the course of Chinese deglobalisation is now set. That’s the Trump win.