Commentary: US waging public opinion warfare

The trade friction between the US and many economies including China and the EU has not eased. In fact, it has worsened. Yet the US is using several tricks in public opinion warfare in an attempt to create the false impression that the US is the “victim” in the trade war.

First of all, the US knows “who is speaking” is more important than “what has been said.” Thus, following US President Donald Trump, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow released statements respectively to justify US trade protectionism. They selectively chose “facts” and “data” to serve the purpose of depicting the US as the “victim” in trade.

The US, through various communication channels, created the illusion of “social consensus.” The Department of Treasury, Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, and the US Trade Representative all used so-called “facts” to justify US actions.

Moreover, many senior officials in the Trump administration are familiar with the characteristics and needs of various media, and know how to deal with the media to achieve a desirable communication effect. Therefore, sometimes US officials deliberately show toughness in front of the media.

Fourth, the US cites various reports and data to mislead the public into thinking that the US is justified in the trade war. But in fact, if one takes the time to delve into some of the reports’ details, one can find plenty of data flaws and logical loopholes.

The trade war with China is a systematic confrontation between the two countries in terms of strategy, coordination of various resources, and global mobilization capabilities. As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” This is true of public opinion warfare. Knowing better the tricks the US uses in the trade war will help China take more effective countermeasures.