The U.S. and China Are Nic Cage and John Travolta, Basically
Begun, the Trade War Has
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- In the ridiculous/great Nicolas Cage/John Travolta classic “Face/Off,” two enemies fight each other by literally wearing each other’s faces. The U.S.-China trade war that formally began at midnight is kind of like that.
Led by President Donald Trump, the U.S. is behaving much as China has in the past, as a trade aggressor, slapping tariffs on Chinese goods, upending the global order and probably violating trade rules the U.S. helped write, say Bloomberg’s editors. China, meanwhile, is playing America’s typical role of free-trade defender, writes David Fickling: Its consumers aren’t boycotting American goods, nor are they burning them in the street, as they have in past trade spats.
Of course, it’s early days in the war, with only angry words and opening shots exchanged so far (though Trump has threatened further escalation). China, as far as we know, hasn’t overnight morphed into a capitalist democracy. It behooves it to be reasonable for now, but its underlying values are still opposed to those of the liberal West, writes Christopher Balding. Unfortunately, Trump’s seem to be too, meaning America loses a) its typical moral high ground, along with b) most of its allies.
The U.S., as the aggressor, should end this foolishness now before any real damage is done, Bloomberg’s editors write. Many in the market seem to think the U.S. can win a trade war with China because it imports so much more. But China has many weapons in its arsenal, including those powerful consumers and some nuclear options.
But no matter the outcome of this particular spat, it’s bad news for the global order if America under Trump continues to abandon its leadership role in trade, foreign policy and more, writes Hal Brands. The world’s next leader – China and Russia being the likeliest candidates – will reveal its true face in the long run, and it might not be pretty.
The Economy’s Pre-War Vital Signs
So far the U.S. economy has suffered no measurable harm from trade tensions. Jobs grew at a pretty healthy pace last month, and even a jump in unemployment can be read as a positive, writes Mohamed El-Erian: “The rise in the unemployment rate was also ‘healthy’ because it reflected an uptick in the labor participation rate (to 62.9 percent from 62.7 percent), raising hopes that the labor force can overcome some of its structural headwinds.”
Notably, though, in the stock market, cyclical stocks have tumbled lately, while defensive stocks have risen. This seems bad? But Stephen Gandel argues there’s no basis for such moves in the economic data, and maybe some reasons to dismiss them as a head fake. Still, it’s early days.
Scott Pruitt – who more or less declared himself God’s gift to the environment yesterday – no longer runs the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning he no longer gets all the earthly gifts (cheap condo rentals, jet travel, soundproof booths, etc.) he managed to wrangle from that job. But Trump – God’s gift to America, per Pruitt – encouraged him to be ethically fast and loose through his own example, writes Tim O’Brien: “Trump has a boundless interest in making money, and as long as he continues ignoring the financial conflicts of interest that tar his presidency, others on his White House team are likely to follow suit.”
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Imagining Politics After Roe V. Wade
Nothing’s certain, but a more-conservative Supreme Court will probably soon overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. Aside from the impact this will have on people’s lives, it will also be a tectonic shift in American politics, points out Ramesh Ponnuru. For one thing, the Republican coalition that has slowly consolidated power at all levels of government might crumble. “If the overturning of Roe makes traditionalists less inclined to vote for politicians based on social issues, it could undo some of the party’s gains.”
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