By Zhang Jingwei Source: Asia Times Published: 2019-7-2
As the Group of Twenty summit in Osaka concluded, US President Trump agreed to allow American companies to sell their products to Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies.
The results of the meetings between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump ended up being rather gratifying. Trade conflicts between China and the United States have been going on for more than a year, with the conflicts extending to the fields of science and technology, and with the US landing big hits by imposing tariffs on goods worth at least US$250 billion. A global witch-hunt against Huawei was also carried out that called for the abandonment of their tech and equipment. In response, Huawei resisted the cuts of supply by starting a “spare tire program” and building an independent ecosystem.
With the two powers reaching a stalemate, it is apparent that both sides have suffered in the conflict.
The trade war is definitely not sustainable, which is why the Xi-Trump meetings were essential at the latest G20 summit. The outcome of the meetings was Trump allowing US companies to continue supplying Huawei with parts and goods. However, the United States may not be done with pressuring China. Even so, every time the US deals China a blow, the US suffers a hit as well.
The latest development in Sino-US relations has pushed the two countries back on to the correct track of economic and trade negotiations, with the goal of an agreement in sight. With that being said, the main thing about exerting pressure on China, for Trump, is applicability and application. But with an opponent like China, ultimate pressure is never “applicable.”
Trump’s priority is to be re-elected as president, and his poll numbers are not looking good right now. For the 2020 elections, Trump has to sway public opinion to his favor. Apart from his hardline supporters, he has to appease the businesses that opposed the tariffs on Chinese exports, as well as the tech companies that oppose the onslaught on Huawei. Since the G20 summit, Trump has agreed not to impose more tariffs on China or freeze Huawei’s assets.
Negotiations getting back on track is good for China and the US, and the whole world as well. Xi’s expectation is to “promote Sino-US relations based on coordination, cooperation and stability.” The two countries must now move in the same direction with nothing but progress in their minds. Obviously, China hopes that the US lets its actions speak louder than words. Trump stressed that they can achieve monumental results through talks.
Trump’s obsession with putting “America First” and an anti-China mentality in American society mean that there will be twists and turns in Sino-US trade tails. However, the problems shared by China and the US have finally made Trump understand that the two countries have entered a new normal in the stalemate. It is not in the interests of the US to go down along with China. In addition, Trump is distracted with his re-election campaign, Iran, and second-guessing US allies. A new trade agreement with China could definitely help Trump stay in the White House after next year’s election.
The author is a visiting fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.