China and Trade War Tactics
The great negotiator in the White House is likely underestimating the tools available to Xi.
In the political realm, however, Mr. Xi enjoys advantages that may allow him to cope with the economic fallout far better than Mr. Trump can. His authoritarian grip on the news media and the party means there is little room for criticism of his policies, even as Mr. Trump must contend with complaints from American companies and consumers before important midterm elections in November.
The Chinese government also has much greater control over the economy, allowing it to shield the public from job cuts or factory closings by ordering banks to support industries suffering from American tariffs. It can spread the pain of a trade war while tolerating years of losses from state-run companies that dominate major sectors of the economy.
“My impression is that there is in Washington an exaggerated sense of how painful these tariffs might be” in China, said Arthur R. Kroeber, managing director of Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm in Beijing.
At worst, he estimated, the American actions could shave one-tenth of a percentage point off China’s economic growth — hardly enough to force a drastic reversal of policies, given the enormous benefits that Chinese leaders see in the state-heavy economic model they have relied on in recent decades.
At the same time, Chinese officials seem to believe they can take advantage of what they consider vulnerabilities in the American political system.
“The American agricultural sector is quite influential in the Congress,” said Wang Yong, a professor of economics at Peking University, explaining why China has targeted farm products such as soybeans with possible retaliatory tariffs. “China wants the American domestic political system to do the work.”
If one looks at the threatened tariffs, and the maps of who would be affected, there is credence to this theory.