Just as the United States and China appeared to be getting close to a landmark trade deal after months of negotiation, Beijing threatened to undo all of it. President Donald Trump said it was because China would rather deal with one of his prospective 2020 presidential election opponents.
Reuters reported Wednesday that over the previous weekend, Chinese officials tried to reverse almost every aspect of a long-negotiated draft trade deal between the two countries.
President Trump said that China's seemingly reckless recent renegotiation tactics are the result of Beijing wanting to negotiate with former Vice President Joe Biden or another Democratic presidential candidate after the 2020 election. According to the president, China hopes that one of his "very weak" possible replacements would allow them to continue to "ripoff the United States ... for years to come."
Ed Morrissey pointed out at HotAir that it's quite unlikely that Chinese officials are truly willing to take the kind of financial hit that a soured trade relationship with the U.S. until January 2021 would entail and that they've just grossly misread who they're dealing with.
However, it likely isn't a stretch to say that Beijing would rather deal with Biden than with Trump, if given a choice. As Jordan Schachtel noted at Conservative Review, Biden has had some rather deep ties to the Middle Kingdom including well documented family business dealings and a personal relationship with authoritarian Chinese President Xi Jinping.
After Beijing began its weekend efforts to redraw the deal, President Trump responded Sunday to Beijing's play with a tweet that threatened to raise tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports on Friday.
Trump even got some bipartisan backup from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the matter, who told him to "hang tough" and added that, "Strength is the only way to win with China."
"We're moving backward instead of forward, and in the president's view, that's not acceptable," U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, told reporters Monday. "Over the last week or so, we have seen an erosion in commitments by China."
And just as the president previously warned, Lighthizer announced Wednesday that tariff rates on imports from China would jump from 10 percent to 25 percent at 12:01 on Friday morning, to coincide with trade talks.
However, even though Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will appear in Washington, D.C., for negotiations Thursday and Friday, Beijing still appears to be playing hardball.
"When things are unfavourable to us, no matter how you ask, we will not take any step back. Do not even think about it," a recent comment from Chinese state media said.