China is trying to downplay a brewing trade war with the US by censoring comments from Trump and US authorities

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China.

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US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China.
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Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images

  • China has ordered state media not to report on comments from President Donald Trump or US officials because of the trade conflict.
  • China told its media to not “attack Trump’s vulgarity,” and instead said to use state-sanctioned experts and promote “economic brightspots” by using “important page placement.”
  • The notice indicates how China is trying to shield its citizens from news of trade escalations with the US.
  • It also seems that Beijing is trying to not anger Western countries by completely censoring mentions of its “Made in China 2025” initiative, warning outlets to not use the phrase or “there will be consequences.”

China has ordered state media outlets to censor comments from President Donald Trump and other US officials as a trade war looms between the two countries.

A propaganda notice, issued to Chinese media and leaked online on Saturday, lists a number of restrictions on coverage related to the US-China “trade conflict.”

“Don’t relay comments from Trump, from US government spokespersons, or from US officials. Don’t relay US news reports or commentary on the trade conflict without waiting for response from the Ministry of Commerce,” the notice said, according to censorship-monitoring site China Digitial Times.

“Don’t attack Trump’s vulgarity; don’t make this a war of insults,” it said.

The US-China trade conflict has seen a series of tariffs and tariff threats made by the two countries. And while some businesses say they’re preparing for the worst in cities and towns across the US, it appears China is trying to keep news of trade escalations from its citizens.

“All media should prepare well for protracted conflict. Don’t follow the American sides’ fluctuating declarations,” the notice added.

The notice also gave guidance to Chinese reporters on upcoming coverage, including experts from the China Securities Regulatory Commission that will “lead the chorus in stabilizing market expectations” and the need to focus on “economic brightspots” by using “important page placement” and interviewing “experts recommended by each department.”

The censorship notice also reinforced that media must not mention “Made in China 2025,” an industrial policy that wants to see China shift its manufacturing to higher-value industries including robotics, aerospace, biomedicine, 5G networks, and energy-saving vehicles.

Beijing’s promotion of this initiative is thought to be a reason that it drew ire from other countries, and it’s now trying to play down its intentions. Last month Reuters reported that “Made in China 2025” had not been mentioned by state-run news agency Xinhua since June 5, despite 140 mentions since the beginning of the year.

The leaked notice appears to confirm the suspicion that the government was censoring use of the phrase. It says the policy must not be mentioned, “or there will be consequences.”