The United States and China have sparred repeatedly over trade, in a tit-for-tat skirmish that has shown little sign of abating. High-level talks have stalled, while both sides have been threatening further tariffs in recent days.
But beneath the acrimony, two potential paths for China seem to be emerging, according to participants in the trade negotiations and their advisers. Both would deliver trade wins for President Trump and his more moderate advisers, while also letting President Xi Jinping of China push ahead with his ambitious industrial plan to build national champions in cutting-edge technologies.
A stalemate appears the most likely endgame, with new American and Chinese tariffs staying in place for months or even years. So far, the United States has imposed tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese technology goods and $3 billion of Chinese steel and aluminium, with another $16 billion in the offing. China has responded in kind, outlining its own plan on Wednesday for measures on $16 billion of American goods.
While the policies have drawn loud complaints from American companies that have become reliant on imports from China, they have been forcing multinationals to rethink their supply chains and start moving them away from China. Over time, such changes could reduce the trade deficit between the two countries and limit national security concerns, two big sources of discontent for Trump.
A negotiated truce is also possible. Although the two sides remain far apart, Beijing has made subtle shifts to a more conciliatory position.
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