“HONG KONG — I’ve been in Tokyo and Hong Kong this week, and if I were to distill what echoed in all my conversations, it would sound something like this:
From Chinese business and government types, some real anxiety — “Can you please tell me what is President Trump’s bottom line in this trade war? Is this about rebalancing trade or containing China’s rise?” — combined with some real bravado — “You realize that you Americans are too late? We’re too big to be pushed around anymore. You should have done this a decade ago.”
From the Japanese it was gratitude — “Thank God for Donald Trump. Finally we have a U.S. president who understands what a threat China is!” — combined with real anxiety — “Please, please be careful. Don’t go too far with Beijing and break the global trading system.”
And from a smart European consultant it was bewilderment — “Boy did the Chinese have a failure of intelligence. They had no clue just how much both Democrats and Republicans, and Europeans, all want to see Trump hammer China in these trade talks. But please, please don’t start a cold war with China that will force us to choose sides.”
And from me to both my Chinese and Japanese interlocutors: I’m glad Trump is confronting China on its market access barriers. Those are the real issue — not the bilateral trade imbalance. This is long overdue. But trade is not a zero-sum game. China can thrive and rise, and we can, too, at the same time. That’s what’s been happening for the past 40 years. But we’d be even better off if China offered the kind of easy access to its market for U.S. manufacturers that it enjoys in America. It’s time to recalibrate U.S.-China economic ties before it really is too late.”
Thank you Thomas Friedman. Here is a comment I support.