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The Big Picture

Trade War, Take Two?

After weeks of vacillating, the Trump administration has once again signaled its intention to impose import tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. How China responds will set the stage for a much larger struggle to come.

In this Big PictureZhang Jun points out that China has so far responded to Trump's threats with a degree of pragmatism that shores up its long-term position. Kishore Mahbubani agrees, and expects the Chinese to placate Trump with largely symbolic concessions. 

Meanwhile, Stephen S. Roach muses that if China really did bend to Trump's demand that it reduce its bilateral surplus with the US, the result would amount to a tax hike for American consumers. Alternatively, Keyu Jin shows that if China were to fight back instead, it could do serious damage to key US industries.

Looking further ahead, Andrew Sheng and Xiao Geng show that the current trade imbroglio is only the "tip of the iceberg" in an "intensifying Sino-American geopolitical rivalry." And Kent Harrington explains how the US has already undercut its own position in that struggle by acting as the aggressor.

 Employees work on the North America project line of smartphone at a workshop of ZTE Corp. VCG via Getty Images
United States and China cargo containers iStock / Getty Images Plus
Hubei province Honda factory STR/Stringer
Employees work on a solar panel production line at Shenzhou New Energy Co VCG/VCG via Getty Images
A worker looks on as they load imported soybeans at a port in Nantong in China's eastern Jiangsu province AFP/Getty Images

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