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Andrew Browne

This Is the Wrong Way to Deal With China

Beijing can be a slippery negotiating partner. But more tariffs aren’t the smartest means of applying pressure.

Trump’s trying to force Xi to do something he can’t. 

Trump’s trying to force Xi to do something he can’t. 

Photographer: Thomas Peter - Pool/Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump has good reason to be skeptical about China’s willingness to live up to its commitments in any trade deal. Seasoned foreign business executives on the mainland know that any agreement there represents the start of a bargaining process, not the end. Nor is it uncommon for Chinese officials to unpick terms at the last moment, just as they seem to have done ahead of talks this week in Washington, D.C.

Even before those meetings, Trump’s top aides had been displaying a five-page document, printed on both sides in small type, listing every unkept promise made by China over years of shuttle negotiations starting under the George W. Bush administration. Yet, the fact remains that imposing more tariffs on the country as the U.S. just has, raising duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25%, isn’t the way to get Beijing to behave better.