For the first time in quite a few years, the U.S. government is standing up to China’s authoritarian regime. China has been a bad actor for a long time–stealing intellectual property, engaging in unfair trade practices, bullying its East Asian neighbors. The markets are skittish about the current trade impasse, but I think most Americans understand that trade is the lever we can use to deter Chinese misdeeds.
Meanwhile, some speculate that the Chinese, who follow U.S. politics closely (and sometimes have meddled in them, as with illegal donations to the Bill Clinton campaign), have been emboldened by polls suggesting that Joe Biden, over whom they apparently exercise considerable influence, may be able to defeat President Trump in 2020. I think that would be a foolish calculation on which to base negotiations with President Trump, but the Chinese are willing, for now, to take a hard line. Michael Ramirez sums up the current state of trade negotiations: