Xi-Trump meeting could not help 'fundamentally reduce' China-US trade tensions

The planned meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump during the G20 summit, which may lead to the signing of some agreements, could not fundamentally reduce China-US trade tensions, but it would strengthen mutual understanding about each other's policies, accord to an expert.

The presidential summit sends a message that China and the United States are making efforts to prevent their relationship from moving toward a new cold war, said Jin Canrong, associate dean with the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China.

In this year, the China-US relationship has been damaged by the escalating tariff war, which was initiated by Trump, who is notorious for his capriciousness. In May, the Trump administration went back on its word to impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of Chinese goods after it reached an agreement with China during a previous trade negotiation in Washington. This move surprised China, which vowed to fight back with tariff retaliation.

"This capriciousness could be a jetton for Trump to use in dealing with China. It shows that Trump is still unsatisfied with China's practices in market access, intellectual property protection and state-owned enterprise reforms. So, if the Xi-Trump meeting (on the sidelines of the G20 summit) can produce a comprehensive agreement covering all issues dividing the two sides, it will bring the two countries' economic and trade problems under control," said Jin.

In Jin's opinion, the reason why the United States launched a trade war with China is that Washington has changed its view of China.

"In the past, the United States still tried to cooperate with China regardless of its dissatisfaction with Beijing. But nowadays, the American elites, no matter what political parties they belong to, have seen China as a strategic competitor. Therefore, they used a trade war to enforce China to change its economic system and decelerate its industrial upgrade," said Jin.

This hostility could be seen in a US national security strategy that Trump outlined in December last year, when he labeled China and Russia as "rival powers". The new security strategy, which is based on Trump's America First policy, marks a hawkish turn of the US government.

Trump's trade war is also based on his judgement that China will make a compromise first in exchange for reconciliation.

China is willing to make compromises economically, but it will not do the same in some key fields that involve its core interests, said Jin, adding that Beijing will continue to carry out the opening-up policy, increase imports and relax restrictions set on foreign investors.

Jin predicted that Xi and Trump might sign some agreements which are not enough to end the trade war in the context of the two countries being divided on some political issues such as Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The inability to reach a joint communique at the APEC summit earlier this month shows that tensions between China and the United States over trade and security issues flared through the gathering of the regional leaders, according to Jin.

But Jin said that with the possible deterioration of the American economy Trump would sit down with China for negotiation in order to avoid the trade war from hurting the US economy.


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