Deciphering the latest twists and turns in Trump policies requires exceptional patience, and perhaps multiple degrees in psychology. Earlier on Sunday, the President threatened to renew the U.S. trade war with China unless the world’s second-biggest economy makes more significant concessions. The announcement unsettled an already delicate rapprochement.
Of course, with Trump policies, no time exists for reflection. Certainly, the President has never been in a mood to reconsider his positions. Instead, he doubles down. True to form, Trump reiterated his threat, promising a return to aggressive tariffs on Friday, and possibly, an expansion.
What is Trump thinking here? We’ve already seen what the original salvo of tariffs have done, which is to say, not much. Sure, the sanctions have stymied the growth engine in China. Certainly, the Chinese are feeling the heat; otherwise, why would they willingly attempt negotiations?
In fact, the latest news confirms that scheduled talks between the U.S. and China will still take place in Washington. Is this then the motivator behind the Trump policies toward China? Throughout the campaign trail, the former real-estate mogul consistently argued about negotiating from a position of strength.
With China’s economy suffering more than the U.S., the President advantaged the opportunity, bringing the hammer down. Indeed, based on standard metrics, the U.S. economy enjoyed surprising growth in the first quarter.
Trump Policies Based on Calculated Political Risks
On the surface, it may appear that the Trump administration has grown confidently into its role. With more than two years under its belt through tough circumstance, it’s earned substantial experience.
It may also appear that Trump has the best interest in mind for the American people. The White House doesn’t just want any deal with China; they want the right one, the one that favors them.
However, depending on an ever-volatile presidency is trust not well spent. The risk calculation here is purely political. As an egomaniac, Trump desperately wants to win the 2020 election. To do so, he must first secure a strong economy…at least, heading into the election. Second, he must appeal to his base.
The former is an obvious point. If the economy tanks, Trump doesn’t stand a chance in hell of reelection. Therefore, the administration will do anything necessary – even last-second moves – to better ensure victory. That leaves the latter point. If the President can accomplish better economic metrics while pandering to his base, he scores bigly.
This trade war and China represent ideal targets. The Chinese are the perennial “other.” And definitely, they’ve acted unfairly, leading up to this prolonged trade war.
Trump is calling them out. But don’t think he’s doing this for you because he’s not.