For years now, two of the world's superpowers have been locked in a trade war over billions of dollars worth of goods. From the American side, the current president, Donald Trump, has accused China of unfair trade practices and information theft whereas China believes the US is using the situation to gain more global economic power. Negotiations have occurred, but very little has been solved on either side.
In January, China and the US signed a preliminary trade deal, but most issues remain unresolved. In the deal, China agreed to boost US imports by $200bn from 2017 levels and the US agreed to halve some of the tariffs placed on Chinese businesses. It was hoped that it would be a starting point for the end of the trade war, and a way to help ease some of the pressure that the rest of the global economy has felt as a result of one of the largest consumers (the US) being at odds with the largest producer (China). This made buying from or selling to either country dangerous, as it could be seen as siding with that country, thus causing friction with the other.
The main issue is tariffs that have been placed on and by each side. President Trump’s plan has been to encourage American consumers to buy US - made products by making imported goods more expensive, and China has countered by imposing tariffs ranging from 5 - 25% on American goods. This trade war has had negative implications for both sides, with an estimated 300,000 US jobs being lost as a result. Both China and the US have lost a major trading partner in each other. One of the most devastating outcomes of the trade war is in relation to coronavirus, as the main producers of masks and other essential PPE for medical staff are Chinese businesses, so when US cases began to rise, they quickly ran out of PPE and had to resort to homemade masks even on the frontline. Since Trump blames China for the Covid-19 outbreak, he couldn’t be seen buying large amounts of PPE from Chinese companies as this would likely anger his supporters.
However, many of the recent developments have revolved around technology as the US banned Chinese phone makers, Huawei, with claims that they were stealing American information and selling it to the Chinese government. This means Huawei products cannot be bought or sold in America. The US has also been attempting to ban the incredibly popular app, TikTok, and in response, China has threatened to ban any games in the Mortal Combat series.
The trade war has been a topic central to the 2020 presidential debates, with the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, arguing that Donald Trump has destroyed the US economy with the tariffs he has imposed. By contrast, the Republican Party has mostly blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic. There may be repercussions for this if Trump retains power in this coming election.
It seems that this trade war has long surpassed trade issues, and is now about which country will be forced to back down first (almost brinkmanship) at the great risk of appearing weak to their own people, and the international community as a whole. But, I believe this will happen soon as alienating countries because of political differences has already caused the US many problems during this pandemic, and has also caused issues for China regarding food imports as China relies on US food therefore a famine may be seen in some areas of China. The only real question now is which country will back down first?