US president Donald Trump has been going aggressively after China as a trade partner. But is it working? Political analyst Sara Hsu does not think so, she explains in Forbes.“From the Boston tea party to the Smoot Hawley tariffs imposed during the Great Depression, protectionist measures have always imposed far higher costs than benefits.”
The aggressive Trump stance hasn’t worked because Chinese diplomacy is nuanced and officials do not use threats as a negotiation tactic. The Chinese generally negotiate through reciprocity, which is why we saw Xi Jinping making concessions on automobile tariffs. Within the philosophy of Confucianism, Chinese negotiators attempt to avoid conflict and save face, or show mutual respect. Relationship building is essential, and the bonds of the relationship are not meant to be broken.
If pushed, however, the Chinese often use silence or long negotiation processes as a response tactic. Chinese negotiators may also attempt to use a response that targets the weakness of the counterparty, especially if the counterparty is not viewed as civilized or friendly. The Chinese Thirty-Six Strategems calls for using specific tactics to deal with a hostile party, which including “wait at leisure while the enemy labors” and “watch the fires burning across the river.” Chinese officials indeed waited to respond to Trump’s bluster and hoped that he would wear himself down by griping and tweeting about his issues with the Asian nation.
China’s strategy appears to be working in the sense that the nation has, to some extent, benefited from Trump’s aggressive mentality. Its diplomatic response has been calculated and staid. As Trump rants and raves about China, Chinese officials have emphasized the need for cooperation. It couldn’t be clearer who is speaking the voice of reason. If Trump had a better knowledge of economics, he would realize that history has shown that trade showdowns don’t work. From the Boston tea party to the Smoot Hawley tariffs imposed during the Great Depression, protectionist measures have always imposed far higher costs than benefits.
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