US-China Trade War

Battles lines drawn between the world's two largest economies
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Background and explainers on the trade war between China, led by President Xi Jinping, and the United States, and its President Donald Trump. Having started in July 2018, the prolonged conflict reached a turning point in January 2020 with the signing of the phase one trade deal, but not after it had weighed heavily on the global economy for 18 months due to additional import tariffs levied by both China and the US. The US has accused China of unfair trading practices, including intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, lack of market access for American companies in China and creating an unlevel playing field through state subsidies of Chinese companies. China, meanwhile, believes the US is trying to restrict its rise as a global economic power.

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With exports flagging and US techno-nationalism on the rise, China’s economic predicament is being compared to that of 1990s Japan and the resulting stagnation. But unlike Japan, China still has plenty of room to grow effective investments and boost household consumption under its internal circulation strategy.
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The Taiwan crisis has deepened the divergence between China and the US-led West. While markets might believe that trade is the new mutually assured destruction, history tells another story.
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Given China’s strong and highly valued economic relations with a large part of the world, where can the US go to find a big enough group of trusted countries to friend-shore with? And is it worth risking a multilateral trading system built up over 75 years?
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Globalisation’s defences are crumbling in a world beset by climate change, pandemics and the war in Ukraine. Mounting geostrategic tensions are the wild card, with ‘friend-shoring’ efforts and scrutiny of Sino-Russian ties raising the stakes for China.
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Recent high-level meetings between top Chinese and American diplomats have raised hopes, but trust and understanding can only be improved by direct dialogue between the two presidents.
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Companies worldwide should look to simplify and diversify their supply chains after the shocks of the pandemic and Ukraine invasion, and with a recession looming. However, it is not in their interests to relocate manufacturing to US friends and allies, as the Biden administration is advocating.
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There are signs of a reorientation towards a new economic policy framework as global sentiment turns away from globalisation. Productivism, which emphasises production and investment over finance and aiding local communities over globalisation, is garnering bipartisan support.
Policy failures in the past decade have brought plunging trade and investment, slowing migration and an explosion of global displacement. The longer stagnation prevails, the greater the chances of cold wars turning into hot wars.
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Recent signs that the punishing tariffs in place for several years may be reviewed have brought hope. On top of easing trade tensions, China’s shift towards nurturing domestic consumption should also be complemented by a renewed US focus on manufacturing.
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News of Shanghai easing its strict lockdown measures could signal an end to supply chain disruptions that have plagued the global economy. Clearing the snarl-ups would help reduce inflationary pressures and boost Biden’s midterm election hopes.
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The US is recklessly forging ahead with a campaign to block China, in particular telecoms giant Huawei, from access to the global market and advanced technologies. Yet, as China continues to lead in 5G innovation and has made strides in developing its own microchips, the US is hurting both itself and its allies.
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US president will have countering growing Chinese influence in the region squarely in his sights when he begins his four-day trip to Seoul and Tokyo.
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