China Takes the Long View on Trump’s Trade War: Balance of Power

Enda Curran
China Takes the Long View on Trump’s Trade War: Balance of Power

(Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.

U.S. President Donald Trump is an avid fan of golf, where the winner is decided over a few hours and 18 holes. When it comes to China, though, the game could last much longer.It's easy to dismiss Beijing's anger over the trade war when it shows up in the shrieking contortions of state-media propaganda and a privately produced song that's gone viral with its warnings of beating its rivals “to bits.” There are even reports Chinese television has switched to showing anti-American movies.But while the U.S. has economic (tariffs) and corporate (Huawei) clout against China, Beijing has large chips of its own, and this dispute could persist as the tit-for-tat mood grows. Witness Xi Jinping's very public visit to a rare earths facility. The U.S. relies on China for about 80% of its rare earths imports.And behind this fight is the broader struggle of two large countries over how they will fit together in the world decades from now. China's envoy to the European Union, Zhang Ming, made that point yesterday when he emphasized the longevity of Chinese civilization. China, he said, is playing a very long game and sees the trade war within that frame.“We have been holding on for 5,000 years,” Zhang said. “Why not another 5,000 years?” 

Global Headlines

Power struggle | Trump’s decision to fight “all the subpoenas” seeking documents and testimony over things like his tax records leaves Democrats with a risky choice: take on the White House in a lengthy court battle or begin impeachment proceedings. While the impeachment process would strengthen the Democrats’ legal case for enforcing their summonses, many are concerned it could backfire as Trump seeks re-election.Iran defiant | President Hassan Rouhani said he supports talks with the U.S., but not under current conditions. Rather this is a time for “resistance.” The comments were reported by semi-official Tasnim news agency hours after Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said the Islamic Republic has accelerated the rate at which it’s enriching low-grade uranium four-fold.Jobs tussle | German Chancellor Angela Merkel is preparing for a battle with France to ensure Berlin gets one of the top European Union posts up for grabs this year. There hasn’t been a German in charge of the EU Commission since the 1960s and the bloc's biggest economy has never claimed the presidency of the ECB.Turkish intervention | In the latest move to defend the lira from politically inspired turbulence, Turkey's bank regulator told lenders to wait a day before settling foreign-currency purchases of $100,000 or more. Turmoil in the lira contributed to losses for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party in March local elections — including its stronghold of Istanbul, where the outcome was later annulled and the vote will be repeated in June.Win confirmed | Indonesian authorities confirmed President Joko Widodo as the victor — by a double-digit margin — of last month’s elections in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. In a repeat of the 2014 vote aftermath, unsuccessful rival Prabowo Subianto again rejected the outcome and urged his supporters to take to the streets. Jokowi’s challenge now is to shield Indonesia from an escalating U.S.-China trade war and spur jobs growth.

What to Watch

Five Catalan separatist leaders will be allowed out of jail for the day to take up their seats in the Spanish parliament, a reminder of the unresolved conflict over independence. Senior European Huawei executives are due to speak in Brussels today, when they are expected to address Trump’s move to blacklist the company.

And finally...From Trump’s America to Italy and Hungary, the vilification of immigrants is hardly new. But for those in Britain who saw leaving the European Union as an opportunity to shut the gates to outsiders, the threat isn’t human. The irony is Brexiteers who viewed an influx of cheap labor as jeopardizing their livelihoods face having their jobs automated. 


--With assistance from Karl Maier, Ruth Pollard, Shivani Kumaresan and Ben Sills.

To contact the author of this story: Enda Curran in Hong Kong at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at, Rosalind Mathieson

For more articles like this, please visit us at

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.