Jul 22, 2018

China's animated soybean hardball

Hopeful Grain and Oil in Sanhe has switched to Brazilian soybeans. Image: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty

The warning is delivered by a non-threatening soybean, but this talking legume is no weakling: If President Trump persists with his trade war against China, it says, he may lose seats in the coming midterms.

What's going on: The talking soybean appears in an animated video produced by CGTN, the English-language branch of China’s state-owned TV broadcaster. In the middle comes a threat: Hike tariffs too high and China will look to South America to satisfy its humongous soybean appetite.

The background: Soybeans are a primary U.S. export to China, worth $14 billion last year, the New York Times reports. And China, responding to Trump's tariffs and threats of much, much worse, is targeting soybean-growing states in an attempt to pressure the president to back off.

Hence the animation — distributed on Twitter and apparently aimed at an American audience. Among the soybean's talking points:

  • The crop is grown primarily in 10 states, nine of which voted for Trump in 2016.
  • 62% of U.S. soybeans go to China, which imports 85% of its soybean consumption, one-third of it from the U.S.
  • U.S. soybean prices are already dropping — they are down 18% since May.

The soybean points out that things could get worse — if the tariffs mean higher soybean prices, China may "look to other sources for the bulk of its imports." Specifically, Brazil and Argentina, "could pick up the slack."

Americans are accustomed to hardball politics, but soybean hardball may be another matter.

  • Already, just as the cartoon bean warns, Brazil has stepped up its exports to China, the South China Morning Post reports.
  • The animation aims low, with a final scene depicting Trump sliding a dollar out of the pocket of a voter, who reaches over his shoulder to vote Democratic.

What they’re saying: As soybean chatter intensified last week, Trump might have been trying to deflect:

Go deeper

Amid racial unrest, a test at the polls

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Eight states plus D.C. are holding primary elections today following a week of intense protests across the country over the brutal police killing of George Floyd.

Why it matters: It's the first major test for voting since the national outcry. Concerns over civil unrest and the police — as well as the coronavirus and expanded absentee voting — could reduce the number of voters showing up in person but heighten tensions for those who do.

Axios-Ipsos poll: America’s big racial divide on police, virus

Data: Ipsos/Axios survey; Note: ±3.2% margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A new Axios-Ipsos poll finds that America has a massive racial gulf on each of our twin calamities — trust in police, and fear of the coronavirus.

  • 77% of whites say they trust local police, compared with just 36% of African Americans — one of many measures of a throbbing racial divide in Week 11 of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, taken the week George Floyd was killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis.

Updates: George Floyd protests nationwide

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued for a seventh day across the U.S., with President Trump threatening on Monday to deploy the military if the unrest continues.

The latest: Four police officers were struck by gunfire while standing near a line in St Louis on Monday after a peaceful demonstration, Police Chief John Hayden said early Tuesday. They were all taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He said a small group of people had thrown rocks and fireworks at police officers.