It appears that President Donald Trump is not interested in striking a Sino-American trade agreement right now, says Tom McGregor, a Beijing-based editor for China’s national broadcaster CCTV, adding that the American president has crossed the point of no return and China won’t surrender in the meantime.
The US-China trade war has got its second wind after the 10 May talks between the two countries ended in a stalemate.
US-China Trade Deal Fell Short of Becoming ‘Real Game-Changer’
“The talks were going well, but the two sides had hit an emotional stasis near the end of April”, says Tom McGregor, a Beijing-based political analyst and senior editor for China’s national broadcaster CCTV. “This meant that both sides were continuing to make progress on reaching a consensus, but American and Chinese trade officials were beginning to feel that a trade agreement, if signed by US President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, would not be a real ‘game-changer’. A deal that neither Washington nor Beijing could brag about”.
Now, that the Sino-American talks have stalled, “Trump looks like a hero to his supporters in America, while Xi appears as a man who refused to surrender to bullying”, the CCTV senior editor opined.
“One could call it Reality TV at its finest and the drama that unfolded certainly captured the world’s attention”, he said. “The fact is we need an amazing win-win US-China trade deal here and it seems the two sides were nowhere near reaching that stage, so the present road blocks are setting the stage for re-negotiations that will eventually score more beneficial results that both nations can agree upon”.
On 10 May, Donald Trump raised tariffs from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese goods, after the US-China trade talks eventually stalled over controversy sparked by China’s edits to the 150-page document.
Beijing responded in a tit-for-tat manner, with Chinese Vice Premier Liu dubbing Trump’s move “very disadvantageous to both parties”.
The Trump administration kicked off a tariff spree in March 2018. Having exchanged a series of tough trade measures, Washington and Beijing announced a trade truce in December 2018 and started preparing a new trade deal.
Trump Has Crossed ‘the Point of No Return’
When asked whether the Chinese are waiting for the results of the 2020 presidential elections in the US to strike the final deal, McGregor pointed out that virtually nobody in the People’s Republic believes that the Democratic Party’s main candidate, Joseph Biden, would outdo Trump in the upcoming vote.
“Beijing… understands that Biden has little chance of defeating Trump in [the] 2020 elections. The Democrats are not doing well, so Trump looks likely to win re-election in a landslide”, the Beijing-based political analyst underscored.
According to McGregor, now that Trump has resorted to punishing tariffs, he has reached the point where it’s not up to him to decide when exactly the trade agreement is concluded.
“The Chinese will not surrender in the meantime“, the CCTV senior editor said. “Trump’s demands and ultimatums will simply be ignored and met with countermeasures. If Trump wants a deal, he has to change his current ways of approaching the Chinese and show a more conciliatory manner. Trump does not appear interested in a trade agreement right now, so the Chinese will just stay patient and wait it out”.
It appears that US citizens are not happy with Trump’s trade war with China. Accordingto a 21 May Quinnipiac University national poll, only 39 percent of respondents approve of his handling of trade affairs, while 52 percent disapprove.
Meanwhile, Pony Ma, the head of Tencent Holdings Limited, a Chinese multinational investment holding conglomerate, suggested the possibility of the ongoing trade war morphing into a tech war, citing Washington’s crackdown on Huawei and ZTE.
Tech War? Trump Continues to Crack Down on Huawei
According to McGregor, Washington’s crackdown against Huawei is part of the Trump administration’s “sticks-and-carrots” strategy in the ongoing trade war.
“[Trump] is just looking for a better deal… sometimes forcing pain on an opponent and other times handing out rewards for good behaviour”, the Beijing-based journalist opined, suggesting that if the US president’s ultimate goal was an all-out trade war with China, he would have resorted to it already.
On 16 May, the US Department of Commerce placed Chinese telecom giant Huawei and its 70 entities on a US trade blacklist, citing security concerns. Huawei vehemently denied the accusations and called the decision a “lose-lose” situation.
Days after Huawei was blacklisted, Google Inc. suspended its access to its Android operating system updates. However, on 20 May, the US Commerce Department issued a 90-day waiver for Huawei, allowing the company to purchase hardware and software services from US companies for maintenance purposes.
Following the ban, a number of large IT companies in the US, UK, and Japan severed ties with Huawei. However, German semiconductor producer Infineon refuted the claims that it had stopped cooperating with the Chinese telecom firm, according to Xinhua.
The company has been repeatedly accused by Washington and its allies of being linked to the Chinese government and conducting surveillance on its behalf.
The Trump administration has been increasing pressure on Huawei since 2018 by banning the Chinese telecommunications giant from participating in government contracts and building 5G network infrastructures. Australia, Japan, and New Zealand have followed Washington’s suit. Meanwhile, in December 2018, Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada, at the behest of US law enforcement officials.