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There Is No Grand Bargain With China

Why Trump and Xi Can’t Meet Each Other Halfway

U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, November 2017.  Damir Sagolj / REUTERS

In true showmanship fashion, U.S. President Donald Trump is keeping the world in suspense about whether he will soon double down on the United States’ trade war with China or call a truce. The big reveal will come after his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the G-20 in Buenos Aires later this week. Trump has at times been optimistic, telling reporters, “I think a deal will be made. We’ll find out very soon.”

Don’t believe the hype. Any agreement in Argentina will be a tactical pause at best, providing short-term relief to jittery stock markets and beleaguered U.S. farmers, but having no material or long-lasting effect on the slide toward a high-stakes geopolitical competition between the United States and China. The days when the world’s two largest economies could meet each other halfway have gone.

Over the course of his

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