U.S. vs. China: A widening power struggle
A full-blown U.S.-China trade war is now a reality, said David Lake and Jessica Chen Weiss in The Washington Post. The Trump administration slapped tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods this week, and as expected, China responded with $60 billion in reciprocal tariffs. President Trump believes he can so badly damage China’s export-dependent economy with tariffs that the Chinese will bow to his demands to import more American goods, reduce the trade deficit, and thus bring back some lost American jobs. But China is unlikely to cave in, and will seek new markets for its exports and replace U.S. imports with its own products. Trade is just “the pretext for a wider struggle” over economic, military, and technological superiority, said Andrew Browne in Bloomberg.com. Chinese leaders once viewed Trump as “a pragmatic businessman,” but now they see a U.S. president moving toward “containment” of an ascendant competitor on the global stage. “They’re not far off the mark.”
When Trump started down this path six months ago, said Veronique de Rugy in NationalReview.com, he told us “that trade wars are good and easy to win.” We were promised other countries wouldn’t retaliate against our tariffs “because we are a huge market and they can’t afford to cut themselves off from it.” We were assured tariffs “would force China to end bad trade practices” and that American workers and consumers would feel little pain. But all of these have already “been proved wrong.” More than 32,000 angry U.S. firms have filed requests for Trump to exempt them from tariffs on products they need, and the prices of steel, washing machines, and cars are rising fast. “If that’s winning, then I would like a little less winning, please.” Trump “is right to see China as a rival,” said WashingtonExaminer.com in an editorial. But trying to browbeat the Chinese into total submission will only backfire.
The browbeating is about to get worse, said Jonathan Swan in Axios.com. The Trump administration’s national security team reportedly plans to launch a major “rhetorical and substantive” broadside against China over the next few weeks. The White House will present evidence of “malign activity” by the Chinese government in U.S. affairs—including cyberattacks, election interference, and intellectual property theft. “We’re not just going to let Russia be the bogeyman,” said one White House official. “It’s Russia and China.”