China-US Trade War: both claim upper hand, as talks might resume



Both of China and the US hint it has the upper hand in the trade war, which may escalate, as the two countries moved on Thursday a step closer to resume high-level trade talks.

In the US, the Wall Street Journal said the Trump administration is “giving Beijing another chance” to try to stave off new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese exports, asking top officials for a fresh round of trade talks later this month.

The invitation from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin comes as some Trump officials said they sense a new vulnerability—and possibly more flexibility—among Chinese officials pressured by US tariffs imposed earlier this year and threats for more.

It also follows a steady rise in political pressure on President Trump to ease up on trade fights — which have pinched consumers and prompted painful retaliation against US exports — ahead of November elections in which his Republican Party risks losing congressional control.

The US administration sent the invitation this week to a group of Chinese officials headed by Vice-Premier Liu He. That follows an inconclusive session held in Washington last month among midlevel trade officials.

In Beijing, China’s Ministry of Commerce confirmed on Thursday it received the invitation, and said it welcomed this move.

Gao Feng, the ministry’s spokesman, said China and the US have communication on many specific details. The escalation of trade conflicts is inconsistent with the interests of either party.

In a rather sensational headline of a news report on the same day, Global Times, a popular Chinese language newspaper under the People’s Daily, said it was the US that “begs” China for talk.

This small round of exchange of words shows both governments are trying to telling its own people that it is the winning side on the pitch.

It was unclear whether either side was willing to offer sufficient concessions to end the dispute, the South China Morning Post has said.

Trump has said he’s ready to erect tariffs on all $506 billion worth of Chinese imports to the US. So far, Washington has slapped duties on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, and a fresh $200 billion more is threatened this month.

Escalation of the trade war means it’s little possible for both countries to address the issue through negotiations. Both are preparing for the worst case scenarios, Pang Zhongying, a renowned international relations analyst and professor of Ocean University of China, said.

Ties between Beijing and Washington may enter a “dark period” of five to ten years, as the escalation will risk “decoupling” the world’s two largest economies, Pang warned.

This is possibly “the worst case scenario” the trade war may bring, and it may have profound impact on the world order. Economic cooperation has long been considered the pillar of China-US relations.


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