Year-old Xinhua alert spreads proclaiming U.S.-China trade row ceasefire

© Reuters. Aides set up platforms before a group photo with members of U.S. and Chinese trade negotiation delegations at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s official Xinhua news agency condemned the spreading of “false news” on Monday after some websites published a year-old alert announcing a ceasefire in the Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

The one-line item, originally published on May 20, 2018, gave no details but U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that day the trade war with China was “on hold” following an agreement to set up a framework for addressing trade imbalances.

The alert circulated widely on Monday among Chinese internet users’ Wechat timelines as if new. It was also propagated by several mainstream media outlets including news app JinriToutiao, Tencent News and Phoenix News.

It was not immediately clear why the 2018 alert had been re-circulated.

“We condemn the act of spreading false news in the name of Xinhua and reserve the right to hold them accountable according to law,” Xinhua said in a statement published on its social media accounts in Chinese and English.

The trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies has flared in recent weeks, with Beijing and Washington trading tariff hikes and no sign of trade negotiations resuming in the near term.

The United States has threatened tariffs on another $300 billion (236 billion pounds) in Chinese goods and is placing Huawei Technologies Co Lt on a blacklist that could make it extremely hard to do business with U.S. firms – a major blow against one of China’s largest and most successful companies.

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China warned it would counter any action even as it urges the United States to resume negotiations in good faith, reiterating that it is not afraid of a trade war and is capable of withstanding any such conflict.

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