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David Fickling

China Is Playing Trump on Trade

Holding off on big agricultural purchases now is a low-cost, high-opportunity strategy. 

China’s been buying less from the U.S. for years. 

China’s been buying less from the U.S. for years. 

Photographer: AFP/Getty Images

The logic behind China’s decision to ask its state-owned enterprises to halt imports of U.S. farm goods would, at one level, seem blindingly obvious. Leaders in Beijing may have a more complex game in mind, though. 

After U.S. President Donald Trump last week threatened to impose tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese imports, in large part because China had supposedly reneged on a promise to ramp up agricultural purchases, President Xi Jinping could hardly afford to look like he was bending before the pressure. Chinese state agricultural firms will wait to see how trade talks progress before resuming purchases from the U.S., people familiar with the situation told Bloomberg News Monday.