The China-US trade war, which lasted nearly two years, was finally signed on January 15 after 13 rounds of high-level official dialogues, two “Xi’an special meetings” and several talks.
What does this agreement contain? What kind of signal does the wording difference between Chinese and English express? What is the political significance of the agreement signed by high-profile officials from the two countries a month later? In what manner and style will the “second stage” negotiations not yet begun? Focusing on trade issues, what are the historical changes in the relationship between the two countries? What kind of prospects are shown?
The scope of the China-US negotiations is only a trade agreement, but its significance does not stop there. At today’s node, “Hong Kong 01” will attempt to comment on the above issues with 11 articles. This is the tenth chapter.
The first phase of the agreement was signed at the White House on January 15 by US President Donald Trump and Vice Premier Liu He of China and Chinese leader of the China-US Comprehensive Economic Dialogue.
For observers of international affairs, China and the United States have staged an ups and downs of international political drama during the past two years of negotiations, which is impressive for the end of the old era and the arrival of a new era.
Summary of the first stage of negotiations: the recurrence of great power competition
In the United States, Washington has repeatedly set prices and repeatedly launched offensives against China in trade, technology, public opinion, politics, and many other areas, and has adopted many extreme measures that the US government has avoided.
On the Chinese side, Beijing has been trying to quell the China-US conflict and control its spillover effects, and refuted it with high-profile public opinion on issues such as Hong Kong and Xinjiang. It also used cases such as Meng Wanzhou to put pressure on Canadian and other U.S. allies to try to avoid U.S. The “hawk” effect advocated by the Chinese hawks, and faced the trade negotiations in a cutting way, adopting a “talk, the door opens; fight, and always be accompanied” attitude. While preparing for reciprocal retaliation at any time, it is also ready to ease it.
In this situation, the phased results today are imperfect for China and the United States, but they are also acceptable. The U.S. side did not get all the concessions it wanted, but it also exchanged China’s commitment to purchase 200 billion U.S. dollars in U.S. goods in two years, and China’s corresponding financial and foreign-restriction reforms must be in line with China’s established reform process. The pressure has accelerated. The price that the United States needs to pay is nothing more than the damage to American companies caused by the imposition of tariffs, and the modification of the code of conduct for making tariff decisions under Section 301 to change the abuse of this clause in the past decades. In addition, the resumption of a series of China-U.S. Dialogue mechanisms means that the United States’ initiatives against the Chinese moderates have also been reflected.
The above are objective facts. Everyone will have their own conclusions. They may think that this is “the Chinese Communist Party kneeling down, bereavement and humiliation of the country”, or that it is “a small loss and a big win.” “the elements of. Each has its own arguments, so don’t talk too much.
What is important is the impact of the first phase of negotiations that has already concluded on the follow-up negotiations that the two countries will begin next? In what way will the “Second Phase Negotiations” between China and the US begin?
The White House has a new understanding of China
One way to answer this is to try to assess what has happened over the past two years from the perspective of the White House.
The United States is not only attacking China, but also the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA), the updated free trade agreement with Japan and South Korea, and the threat of tariffs with the European Union on agricultural trade, automobiles, aircraft, and digital sovereignty Conflicts with regulatory disputes, and even with military allies.
All in all, and no matter whether Trump is for personal political interests or really believes that this style of work “makes the United States great”, he just considers “whether he can do as much arbitrage from another country” as his own job. The government has therefore spared no effort to break international norms and use various non-traditional methods.
From the current results, this method works. Canada conceded, Mexico conceded, South Korea conceded, and Japan conceded. In addition to the more powerful European Union and strong role of public opinion and lobbying in the United States, most countries lack independence and negotiation when negotiating with the United States. Initiative. After all, the United States is still the only “pole” in the world today. Under the blessing of unparalleled comprehensive national strength, Trump is indeed “invincible.” He knows this himself, otherwise he would not be so laborious to weaken multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and try to maintain the United States’ advantage as the most powerful sovereign state.
However, the situation in China is quite different. China is no better than the European Union. Without the support of the public opinion and political, economic, cultural, and social interests in the United States, China is naturally different from the United States in terms of political system and ideology. No matter how China advocates “harmony and difference”, this is still an unreachable vision in today’s world-the White House’s offensive against China was already the most violent.
However, after going through the first stage of negotiations, Trump and other hawkish U.S. officials who advocated toughening on China realized that China is different from Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Japan, and even the European Union. It takes a lot of energy to get from China. A little “meat” was captured in his mouth. It can even be said that China is still a bit reluctant, otherwise the China-US trade agreement will not need to be signed in stages.
Now that the White House does not want to give up continuing pressure on China, in view of the White House’s previous sky-high prices, in fact Trump has already “forced him to Liangshan” and cannot give up continuing pressure. However, the White House is indeed unable to pry more concessions from Beijing at this stage. It also faces the risks and costs of being defeated by its “seven wounds” operation, tariffs that hurt US companies, and technological restrictions that delay the development of 5G. .
Whether the United States is willing or not, the situation today is already a new paradigm for China-US relations. This paradigm is different from the past.
No need to be overly pessimistic about the second stage
Nowadays, after repeated threats, pressures, and public opinion offensives, the United States chooses to “take the money when it is good”, accepts the Chinese “step by step” approach to reaching consensus, and renders “the United States has won” while avoiding creating ” The PR slogan of “China loses” no longer mentions the original rhetoric of “the agreement cannot be equal.”
From a Chinese perspective, the signing ceremony did not include the “Xi Special Meeting” that Trump expected, and Liu He still visited the United States, which shows that China’s thinking on “talking about trade” has not changed. Even though China has signed an agreement with the United States, it is still watching the White House and is always ready to start a trade war again.
In addition, China-US conflicts in other areas cannot be avoided. Judging from the current situation, there is a growing trend. Therefore, trade negotiations are an important mechanism to maintain the stability of relations between the two countries.
Next, it can be predicted that China will try to enlarge the dimension of mutual benefit in the relationship between the two countries through the negotiation process as much as possible, and artificially establish a “contact” China policy for the United States. After all, shouting and killing is easy, and the CCP should consider extending the period of opportunity for China’s development. It seems that Beijing is indeed doing the same.
On the U.S. side, the current Trump administration has a new understanding of China, realizing that it seems that brute force alone cannot make concessions to China, realizing that China’s attitude of “talking and the door is open” is true. His attitude is also true, and he is aware of the negative effects of the “Seven Injuries Boxing” on China’s offensive. Therefore, the White House also needs to communicate with China in a more realistic, “talk instead of fight” manner. This is bound to affect the style of the second phase of the White House negotiations.
Therefore, during the second stage of negotiations, the two countries facing the new paradigm will no longer shift from the will of the United States, as in the first stage. Compared with the previous situation of “U.S. bargaining and bargaining”, there will be more reciprocal benefits exchanges in the second round, and people will see more “China and the U.S. bargaining and exchange price codes”.
It is important to remember that all sectors cannot underestimate the importance Trump attaches to re-election. After realizing that China is unwilling to confront, but is not afraid to launch a counterattack, and has certain counterattack capabilities, it can be estimated that from now until the results of the US presidential election in November, the White House will not launch an actual offensive against China. Even if there is, it will stay above the tongue of public opinion. After all, Trump needs to avoid the risk of failing to step down. Before the election, it is still safe.