On Friday, Donald Trump’s foolish trade war took a huge step forward, with the White House declaring the imposition of excessive tariffs against China, and they were met with instant retaliatory measures by Beijing. Before the deadline, there was still hope that China might satisfy the insane American president’s wishes, but that ambiguous goal was not reached in time.
No one even understands the administration’s idiotic demands, which makes it hard for Chinese officials to make the dense Republican happy. Politico published a good piece recently, noting that China is “increasingly mystified about what Trump really wants,” and they’re convinced the administration lacks a strategy completely.
“We appeal our American interlocutors to be credible and consistent,” the minister for the Chinese embassy located in Washington, Li Kexin, said during a recent speech – indicating that China sees Team Trump’s attitude as being neither credible nor consistent.
So now there’s a strange trade war with no clear purpose, beyond satisfying the whims of an incompetent amateur president who can’t understand how trade works and lies about it constantly. The other day, New York Times’ Paul Krugman explained:
Trump’s tariffs are badly designed even from the point of view of someone who shares his crude mercantilist view of trade. In fact, the structure of his tariffs so far is designed to inflict maximum damage on the U.S. economy, for minimal gain. Foreign retaliation, by contrast, is far more sophisticated: unlike Trump, the Chinese and other targets of his trade wrath seem to have a clear idea of what they’re trying to accomplish. […]
Is there a strategy here? It’s hard to see one. There’s certainly no hint that the tariffs were designed to pressure China into accepting U.S. demands, since nobody can even figure out what, exactly, Trump wants from China in the first place.
China’s retaliation looks very different. It doesn’t completely eschew tariffs on intermediate goods, but it’s mostly on final goods. And it’s also driven by a clear political strategy of hurting Trump voters; the Chinese, unlike the Trumpies, know what they’re trying to accomplish:
Trump has no idea what he’s doing, and he lacks a plan.
Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell said in May, during the U.S./Chinese trade talks, “China knows what it wants out of these bilateral negotiations; the White House plainly does not. Trump officials have offered shifting and at times contradictory demands and objectives, further complicated by administration infighting, public turf wars, reversals, retractions and clumsy errors. In short: Over here on Team USA, it’s been amateur hour.”
And last week, Daniel Price, who was a trade official during the Bush/Cheney administration, explained via the NYT, “There is no apparent plan. The administration has given no indication what the off-ramp is or what their objectives are.”
This has reached the point where Chinese officials are looking to Wall Street and important Washington insiders, starting “back-channel conversations” to understand the president’s thinking. Unfortunately, the insiders don’t understand Donald Trump’s posture, either.