It’s Trump vs. Xi in the China trade war — and it’s personal
Washington (CNN) Neither Donald Trump nor Xi Jinping can afford to blink.A personal
duel between two rival presidents could ensure that the escalating trade war across the Pacific may last longer than anyone expected.The showdown is now no longer just a confrontation between China and the US — one a rising power challenging the long established dominance of the global economic leader. It’s become a test of wills between two of the world’s most powerful men, each of whom has political interests that are more likely to deepen the conflict than to quickly ease it.Both view themselves as strongmen. Both have imposed their power on their domestic governing systems by force of will. Both have the authority to trigger global shock waves — as they did when markets plunged following Trump’s tariff hikes last week and China’s multi-billion dollar retaliation on Monday.Both see the honor of their nation at stake at a crucial moment in the history of US-China relations, as the emerging competition between two great powers becomes sharper than ever.While Trump has said the two sides were on the verge of a deal last week before China backed out, the gulf in intention between the two giant economies will complicate future talks.
Trump — lambasting Chinese intellectual property theft and support for state industries — believes he has to change the global trading system itself because it is a massive ripoff for the United States.And Trump thinks the strength of the US economy gives him an edge and the ability to pin the blame for the impasse on Xi.”We are right where we want to be with China. Remember, they broke the deal with us & tried to renegotiate,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.Xi sees US demands as an infringement on Chinese sovereignty and has an incentive to keep globalization intact since China has profited handsomely from the status quo in a stunning 20-year growth explosion.The Chinese leader is no keener to climb down than Trump.”China feels it does not have to give in,” Max Baucus, a former US ambassador to China told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Monday.”Add to that, saving face is a big deal in China. President Xi Jinping does not want to appear to have backed down. I don’t think Americans understand that,” the former Montana senator said.While Trump said Monday he will talk to Xi at the G20 summit in Japan in late June — which is now looming as a massively consequential meeting — the gaps may be too wide to bridge by then.