Why China Won’t Back Down in the Trade Wars

I travel to and from China on a regular basis for my business, so I’ve gained a unique perspective on how Chinese think about the Trade War. Most Chinese in the tech industry agree that free and fair trade is a good thing. They even want China to update many of its laws around IP and trade.

The real problem is that Trump doesn’t get China. He has no understanding of Chinese history or culture. China is very sensitive to foreign powers dictating its trade policy. This goes back to the Qing Dynasty, when foreign powers, like Britain, France, Portugal, and Russia, began carving up China, taking over trading ports, and dictating internal government policy. China never forgot or forgave this.

When Trump acts belligerently towards China and tries to dictate internal policies, he only makes things worse. Chinese see Trump’s actions as imperialist bullying, and I’m afraid his way of dealing with China will backfire, causing long-lasting harm to both nations.

Another issue is Trump’s America First policy. It doesn’t make sense in a world where trade is the engine of prosperity. Trump thinks trade is a win-lose proposition, where America can win by making others lose. But it doesn’t work that way. In today’s world, a win-win arrangement has lasting benefits and is more likely to lead to stable and sustainable economic relationships.

The US and China are by far the biggest economies on the planet, and where we go the rest of the world will follow. By pushing us into a trade war and amping up the rhetoric, Trump may do more harm than good. History has shown that protectionism doesn’t work. Most people I know in China share this view and hope that we can set a better course for the future, increase our ties, decrease misunderstandings, and reduce the level of fear and mistrust.

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