Chinese-American Trade Talks in the Year of the Pig

The resumption of the Chinese-American trade talks raises hope that a deal can finally be reached between the two economic superpowers, though only if the US is sincere in compromising on its maximalist demands and starts channeling the spirit associated with what the Chinese regard as the current Year of the Pig.


Chinese culture considers the present year (which runs for a different duration than the Western one per their civilization’s traditional calendar) to be associated with hard work, kindness, and wealth, exactly the themes that have come to embody the Chinese position towards the on-and-off trade talks.

China has invested much effort into these negotiations (hard work) and proposed various compromises (kindness) in pursuit of a win-win outcome that strengthens it and the US’ economy (wealth), though the US hasn’t hitherto reciprocated. Instead, the American position has been marked by an attempt to bully China through tariffs in order to force its capitulation into agreeing to the maximalist terms that are demanded of it to turn the country’s economic fundamentals back a century to the time of the unfair Open Door Policy of the imperialist era so as to bleed the People’s Republic dry of all its hard-earned wealth obtained since then.

The US is indeed sincere in reaching a deal, albeit only one that works out to its zero-sum interests, and it’s recently threatened to put additional pressure on China that goes beyond the current tariffs. For example, there are three pieces of legislation being considered by Congress right now pertaining to the situations in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang, each of which some elements of the American permanent bureaucracy (“deep state”) hope to meddle in as they attempt to intensify hybrid war pressure on China. The proposed bills have yet to enter into law, but their possible promulgation might be weaponized as a Damocles’ sword against China.

Against this strategic backdrop, it’s very possible that the US will try to strong-arm China into the same lopsided deal that it’s been attempting to force upon it this entire time, holding out the threat of passing those three provocative pieces of legislation in the event that Beijing refuses. Such an approach is guaranteed to fail, however, since China has proven time and again that it won’t surrender to blackmail and is willing to accept short-term economic hardships in order to protect its long-term strategic interests. That said, there are also some promising signs that a few American officials at least are interested in reaching a fair deal with China.

After all, the US postponed the implementation of its planned tariff increases by two weeks, which was reciprocated by the Chinese decision to allow some exemptions on its own tariffed American imports such as pork. As coincidences would have it, the Year of the Pig has ironically been a difficult one for China’s pork industry because of the devastating effect that African swine fever has had on its livestock, though it might nevertheless have a silver lining if this issue ends up leading to a breakthrough in the trade talks with America by bridging their differences in pursuit of a mutually beneficial outcome.

To explain, China has an interest in replacing the pork supplies that it was forced to sacrifice when containing the spread of this virus, whereas the US has an interest in fulfilling this need. Chinese consumers would benefit from lower prices while American farmers would profit from the increase in sales. Each side perfectly complements one another in this arrangement, and any progress on this front in the coming future would prove that both parties have the goodwill to continue discussions on much more difficult issues as they negotiate the details of a more comprehensive trade agreement.

China and the US could each claim a victory because of the immediate benefits that they’d receive, though not at each other’s expense like America is used to doing, but in the spirit of win-win cooperation inspired by the virtues associated with the Year of the Pig. The resultant trust that such an agreement would foster could reduce tensions between the two and redirect their relationship back towards the path of reaching a grand compromise for stabilizing the global economy, which is important for Trump ahead of next year’s elections and for China too as it continues to expand the Belt & Road Initiative across the rest of the world.

By Andrew Korybko
Source: One World

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