It is worth noting that the article on the dastardly, one-day newspaper insert (Book Tells of Xi’s Fun Days in Iowa!) appears in the same newspaper that well sort of published and sort of got paid for running the dastaradly one-day insert. JP
26 September 2018 | Donnelle Eller | Des Moines Register
A Chinese government-run media company’s four-page supplement in the Sunday Des Moines Register was intended to undermine farm-country support for President Donald Trump’s escalating trade war, experts say.
The China Daily insert touted the mutual benefits of U.S.-China trade, built on concern about long-term market losses, and highlighted President Xi Jinping’s three-decades-long relationship with Iowa.
“I think it’s trying to maximize pressure on the administration to change its trade policies toward China by attempting to show White House and Republicans that they’re going to pay a price with the mid-terms,” said David Skidmore, a political science professor at Drake University.
The government-backed English newspaper regularly buys inserts in U.S. newspapers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, experts say.
Skidmore and others questioned, though, whether the supplement will carry a political punch.
“What will influence farmers will be their bottom lines — whether trade policies are hurting them or helping them — and not what they read in a supplement in the Register,” he said.
Iowa farmers are projected to lose up to $2.2 billion from U.S. trade wars, with hits to spending that could ripple through the economy, hitting state tax receipts, jobs and industries such as manufacturing, a new Iowa State University study shows.
Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, said he’s not surprised that China would target Iowa as well as other key election states.
“I think they’re very aware of where the red and the blue states are,” he said.
Iowa holds the nation’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucus, and is often key in kick-starting national political campaigns.
The state, like other ag-strongholds, backed Trump in the 2016 election.
“I think China believes that if the Democrats were to take hold of at least the House, the president would be easier to work with,” Leeds said. “At least, they believe he would encounter more criticism” and less freedom to up the trade ante.
Trade already could be having an impact in some races, Skidmore said.
An Iowa Poll on Sunday, for example, showed Democratic businessman Fred Hubbell edging out Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in a race for the governor’s office.
Reynolds has called on Trump to deliver a trade win, saying farmers support the president’s trade efforts but it isn’t unlimited. Hubbell has criticized Reynolds for defending the president and not farmers.
Trump announced in July that U.S. farmers will be helped with a $12 billion bailout, designed to offset the trade hit growers are expected to see.
Iowa growers could see about $550 million in the first round of federal aid.
“I doubt farmers or many Iowans will be swayed” by the insert, Leeds said. “I think China is trying to send a political signal.”
Dermot Hayes, an ISU economist, said the trade story hits on a point he makes in class: Trade is broader than the U.S.’s $376 billion deficit with China.
It can include the exchange of business services as well as foreign investment.
“You can’t measure trade with just a balance of payment,” Hayes said. “It’s not the only measure of who succeeds in trade.”
What’s not mentioned in China Daily’s trade insert is that U.S. companies have to partner with Chinese companies when doing business in the country, a requirement that often leads to the loss of proprietary technology, Hayes said.
U.S. companies can “only own half. And the Chinese partners traditionally have stolen some of the technology. So there’s genuine frustration there,” Hayes said.
While the Register noted at the top of the page that the “China Watch” insert was a China Daily supplement, Skidmore said the newspaper should have made it clearer that the insert was paid advertising.
“That’s what they want — to be plausible as a product of real journalism, and not easily identifiable as propaganda,” he said.
The China Daily lead advertisement touts a 700 percent increase in U.S. ag exports to Beijing since 2000 — and the long-term risk American farmers face as China turns to South America for commodities such as soybeans.
The insert also paints a picture of China as a modern equal to the U.S. focused on technology, cultural icons and ecological partnerships, such as fighting poaching.
For those readers who understood the supplement was an advertisement, Skidmore said, the approach “could backfire.”
Readers “may not appreciate trying to be manipulated by a foreign government,” he said.
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