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Defusing the US-China Trade Conflict

The emerging Sino-American trade war was caused by structural flaws on both sides that long predate Donald Trump’s presidency. It also reflects the convergence of economic competition and national security concerns, against the background of the shift to a multipolar global order.

DAVIS – Every year since 2000, when then-presidential candidate George W. Bush called China a strategic “competitor” of the United States, I have welcomed the arrival of Christmas with a sigh of relief that a Sino-American trade war was averted for another 12 months.

But by January, my holiday cheer is usually replaced with dread because the tensions fueling Bush’s rhetoric – and the reasons he dismissed Bill Clinton’s preferred label of “partner” – have never adequately been addressed. And, as we are seeing now, the risks to the global economy have only grown more ominous in the years since.

The escalating US-China trade war is a response to three concerns that American leaders have long articulated: job losses, competition over technology, and a perceived Chinese threat to US national security.

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