I think President Trump is doing the right thing in pushing back against theft of intellectual property and other Chinese misdeeds, but there is evidence that he is paying a political price. President Trump’s approval ratings normally move within a very narrow range, consistent with the electorate’s polarization. But he has been doing well lately, with his approval rating sometimes over 50% in the Rasmussen survey. But now he has taken a tumble, with his rating dropping to 45% approval and 53% disapproval.
I can’t think of anything that would cause this dip other than publicity surrounding the trade conflict with China with attendant concerns about consumer prices and the agricultural economy, manifested visibly in a stock market pullback. Today a trade deal with Canada and Mexico was announced. Perhaps progress will be made with China as well. But the Chinese know that President Trump is ramping up for his re-election contest, and they also know that the Democrats are on their side, not Trump’s.
I am inclined to hope that Trump concludes a deal with the Chinese, even if it doesn’t provide much benefit. I recall a White House Correspondents’ Dinner in about 2003, when Ozzy Osbourne yelled out to President Bush that Bush should grow his hair long like Osbourne’s. To which Bush reportedly replied, “Second term, Ozzy.” Similarly, it may be wise for Trump to defer serious conflict with China over trade to his second term, when he will be in a better position to withstand the temporary fallout.