Experts say the American delegation heading to Beijing remains at odds over what a 'victory' in the ongoing trade war would look like.
UNITED NATIONS — American and Chinese officials will meet in Beijing on Monday for trade talks, less than two months before a deadline to resolve a trade war or see a harsh round of tariffs enter force.
Those meetings will be the first since President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in December to postpone the new tariffs by three months.
Since then, both the U.S. stock markets and the Chinese economy have shown signs of strain.
“Xi Jinping is under a fair amount of pressure.”
Claude Barfield is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute:
“Growth is slowing, investment coming into China is slowing and wages are rising so there are other countries that are more competitive.”
Stakes are clearly high, but it’s not clear how the U.S. and China hope to settle the trade war, not least since Trump’s negotiating team remains internally divided.
“Some of them would like to just sort of allow the Chinese to buy us off with a few more bushels of soybeans and wheat and cattle, etc., etc. Others think that we should push for deeper reforms.”
Those reforms could include protections for foreign companies that say China steals their trade secrets in exchange for granting market access.
Rafiq Dossani directs the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy and says reforms of that sort are unlikely so long as China remains a “technology borrower.” That will change as China prioritizes guarding its own intellectual property, but the country’s not there yet.
“It might need another four or five years before it becomes a very active proponent of strong intellectual property rights. But it I think might be willing to make some changes to at least appease or give the appearance of doing something.”
Barfield says that distinction between actions and appearances matters.
“In 2015, Xi Jinping personally promised President Obama that they would not use espionage to transfer intellectual property and trade secrets to their public-private corporations. And what we’ve seen is that after a small down tick in the first six months, it’s really come roaring back.”