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The Trade Wars of Codependency

Whatever the source, the conflict phase of codependency is now at hand. China is changing, or at least attempting to do so, while America remains stuck in the time-worn mindset of a deficit saver with massive multilateral trade deficits and the need to draw freely on global surplus saving to support economic growth.

NEW HAVEN – Codependency never ends well in personal relationships. Judging by the ever-escalating trade war between the United States and China, the same is true of economic relationships.

While I published a book in 2014 on the codependent economic relationship between the US and China, I would be the first to concede that it is a stretch to generalize insights from human psychology to assess the behavior of national economies. But the similarities are striking, and the prognosis all the more compelling, as the world’s two largest economies sink into a dangerous quagmire.

In its most basic terms, codependency occurs at one of the extremes of relationship dynamics – when two partners draw more from each other than from their own inner strength. This is not a stable condition. Codependency deepens as partner feedback tends to grow in importance and self-confidence steadily diminishes as a result. The relationship becomes highly reactive and fraught, with mounting tensions. Invariably, one partner hits a limit and seeks a new source of sustenance. This leaves the other feeling scorned, steeped in denial and blame, and ultimately with a vindictive urge to lash out in response.

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