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China uses Iowa newspaper supplement to bring trade war to the heartland

Soybean harvest. (Pixabay/Released)

China reached into the U.S. heartland in its escalating trade war over President Donald Trump’s tariffs, using an advertising supplement in Iowa’s largest newspaper to highlight the impact on the state’s soybean farmers as “the fruit of a president’s folly.’’

The four-page section in Sunday’s Des Moines Register, which carried the label “paid for and prepared solely by China Daily, an official publication of the People’s Republic of China,” featured such articles as one outlining how the trade dispute is forcing Chinese importers to turn to South America instead of the U.S. for soybeans.

The advertising targets a state critical to Trump and Republicans as the trade war between the world’s two largest economies intensifies. The U.S. is imposing tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports starting Monday, on top of the $50 billion in goods already hit with tariffs. Meanwhile, $110 billion of goods from the U.S. will become subject to Chinese retaliatory tariffs around the same time.

“As the largest importer of U.S. soybeans, China is a vital and robust market we cannot afford to lose,’’ the supplement quotes Davie Stephens, vice president of the American Soybean Association and a Kentucky soybean grower, saying in a statement.

China Saturday called off planned trade talks with U.S. officials, and there’s a growing consensus in Beijing that substantive talks will be possible with the Trump administration only after the U.S. midterm elections in November, according to people familiar with the matter.

Besides the article about soybean imports, the Des Moines Register supplement carried a story highlighting a book about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “fun days in Iowa’’ during trips to the state in 1985 and 2012, and a column with the headline, “Beijing can set an example for the world.’’

China placed similar pages focused on trade in a July issue of Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Congress and the U.S. political scene, but this seems to be its first attempt to go straight to U.S. voters. Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is the U.S. ambassador to China.

Iowa has been especially hard hit by Trump’s trade policies and retaliation by China and other countries, according to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce campaign against the duties highlighting the impact by state. Total Iowa exports threatened by tariffs exceed $1 billion, including $30.8 million in soybeans, and the state has 456,300 jobs supported by trade, according to the chamber.


© 2018 Bloomberg News

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