Reliable China insiders hint that this round of trade talks could lead to a ‘breakthrough’


President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping make joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The previous 18 months of trade talks between the U.S. and China have only led to more tit-for-tat tariffs, but this time it might be different, according to Chinese sources who seem to have inside knowledge on the trade war.

China’s Ministry of Commerce confirmed the two countries held a phone call Thursday and agreed to meet in early October in Washington. This would mark the 13th round of trade negotiations after both sides slapping tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other’s goods.

“There’s more possibility of a breakthrough between the two sides,” said Hu Xijin in a tweet Thursday. Hu is editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid under the People’s Daily, which is the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China. His Twitter account has been followed by many Wall Street traders and market participants for insight on the trade war.

Hu has been spot on with the recent developments in the escalated trade war. Most recently, he had warned about the Chinese retaliation against President Donald Trump’s tariffs just hours before the Chinese made the official announcement.

“New developments”

A blog called Taoran Notes on Chinese social media WeChat has been followed by analysts covering China and market participants for cues on the trade battle. Run by a state-owned newspaper called Economic Daily, the blog has been cited by U.S. media including Bloomberg News for additional color from the China side.

On Thursday, in a 1,200-word commentary, Taoran said it’s “very likely” there will be “new developments” in the upcoming trade talks.

The blog highlighted the statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce saying both sides will make consultations in mid-September in preparation for “meaningful progress” in the ministerial-level talks in October. “Meaningful progress” is an expression that hasn’t been used at all since the talks in May fell apart, Taoran noted.

“Whether the trade war is headed in a positive direction or it will repeat again, I am afraid it still depends on how some people choose,” Taoran said.

Taoran first grabbed the attention of China observers when it emerged as the only vocal commentator on Trump’s initial threat to escalate the trade war back in May. “There’s no winner in a trade war,” Taoran warned then.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Hu and Taoran’s posts Thursday.

Dow futures pointed to a big gain for the market as investors bet that there may be something more substantial to come out of these new talks.

—CNBC’s Tucker Huggins contributed reporting.

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