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A Delicate Truce in the U.S.-Chinese Trade War

What Both Sides Must Do to Forge a Better Peace

Presi­dent Donal­d Trump during a round­table with small busin­ess leade­rs at the White House, December 2019. Erin Schaff / The New York Times

Temporary cease-fires and false dawns have punctuated the 19-month-long trade war between China and the United States, only to dissipate with a sudden setback in negotiations, or a tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump that dialed up the heat on China while chilling global markets. And so the world heaved a sigh of relief when the two sides announced Phase I of a trade deal in December, the first step toward a negotiated peace.

Predictably, the Trump administration claimed a major victory, calling the deal “historic.” The Chinese side offered a positive spin of its own, noting that the deal would promote high-quality growth and facilitate necessary economic restructuring. As part of the deal, the United States agreed to cancel the 15-percent tariffs that had been scheduled to take effect on December 15 on $160 billion worth of Chinese goods, and to halve an earlier set of tariffs on another $120 billion

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