October 04, 2018

Superpower Standoff: The U.S.-Chinese Battle for Global Supremacy

By Ely Ratner

Is the United States looking for a fight or a deal? That’s the fundamental question that a mystified Chinese scholar and former government official posed to me when we met recently in Washington, D.C., as the scholar wrapped up a fact-finding mission to the U.S. capital in the heat of an escalating trade war between the world’s largest economies.

On Tuesday—fresh off signing a revised trade agreement with South Korea and announcing another with Canada and Mexico, both spurred along by the specter of U.S. tariffs—Donald Trump suggested that it’s a deal he’s after. “We’re … fixing decades of disastrous trade deals that have plundered our factories and stolen our wealth and our jobs,” the president told electrical contractors in Philadelphia. “China has been taking out of our country $500 billion a year, and it was time to stop. Nobody ever did it. It’s crazy … We’re going to have a great relationship with China, but we have to be fair to ourselves also.”

In truth, however, Trump’s endgame with China may not actually be establishing a fairer trading relationship. There’s a popular perception that Trump is “building leverage” with the tariffs he’s imposed on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods and “trying to make a deal,” noted Ely Ratner, a China expert at the Center for a New American Security and former Obama administration official, during a panel moderated by James Fallows at The Atlantic Festival on Wednesday. But for certain officials in the Trump administration, “there is no deal. The tariffs are the end point.”

Read the full article here or watch the panel below:

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • January 14, 2022
    Washington’s Missing China Strategy

    The Biden administration has repeatedly identified China as the United States’ foremost foreign policy challenge. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has referred to China as th...

    By Richard Fontaine

  • Reports
    • October 7, 2021
    Tangled Threats

    Executive Summary China and North Korea pose intertwined challenges for U.S. and allied policy. The Korean Peninsula constitutes just one area among many in U.S.-China relatio...

    By Jacob Stokes

  • Commentary
    • The Washington Post
    • September 22, 2021
    The Biden administration just stalled China’s advance in the Indo-Pacific

    Australia, by intensifying the military competition with China, could tee up a chain of as yet unforeseen events....

    By Robert D. Kaplan

  • Commentary
    • Asia Times
    • September 11, 2021
    China tariff policies flounder without a strategy

    The White House ought to be asking a series of questions. What problem are we responding to? What are we trying to achieve? How will 301s and tariffs further that?...

    By Van Jackson

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia