Trump’s China Miscalculation: Weekend Edition

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- With the latest round of trade talks between the U.S. and China ending in a predictable stalemate, one thing has become clear: The Trump administration’s approach to these negotiations has made it all but impossible for Chinese President Xi Jinping to make a deal. Until that changes, there’s no end in sight for the tariff-for-tariff tussle between the two countries, and little chance of achieving Donald Trump’s stated goals.

The White House seems to misunderstand a crucial fact about modern China. As Xi has tightened his grip on power, China’s economic and diplomatic initiatives have become closely associated with him personally. In foreign policy, Xi has sold himself as the champion of China’s global interests and the man to stand up to the West and restore the country to its former glory. At home, Xi has promised the “Chinese Dream,” a prosperous future with boundless new opportunities.

But this carefully crafted image comes with two downsides. First, Xi must avoid any potentially humiliating setbacks on the world stage, especially one inflicted by a Western power. Second, he must keep China’s economy growing, generating jobs and raising incomes.

You might argue that this mix should encourage Xi to reach a trade agreement sooner rather than later. After all, U.S. tariffs on Chinese exports will pinch China’s economy (at least a bit) at a time when it is already slowing and heavily indebted.

The calculus in China’s halls of power, however, is more likely the opposite – doing a deal is simply too dangerous. 

Trump’s Mexico Trade Deal Looks Like a Lemon – David Fickling and Anjani Trivedi

Saturday New Music

Stream Spiritualized’s new album of pensive pop, the band’s first in six years, “And Nothing Hurt”.

The Tobin Harshaw Old Music Endowment

Speaking of pensive, Billboard’s best-selling album this week in 1988 was Tracy Chapman’s debut, “Tracy Chapman”. It includes the classic single “Fast Car,” which you will now have stuck in your head again for a long time.

And you can listen to a song by Beto O’Rourke’s old post-punk band, Foss.

This is the Weekend Edition of Bloomberg Opinion Today, a roundup of the ten most popular stories Bloomberg Opinion published this week, based on web readership, with some other stuff thrown in. New subscribers to the newsletter can sign up here

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.

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