We are now familiar with Trump’s signature style: Create a Trumped-up crisis, pull back from the brink at the 11th hour, and pose as the hero who saved the day.
There is only one thing wrong with this method. When applied to genuinely thorny policy challenges, it only simulates progress and leaves genuine problems unresolved, and often worse for the saber-rattling.
Trump’s elaborate dance with North Korea, even if it averted war, did nothing to address that nation’s increasing nuclear capability. Likewise with Iran: while Trump may avoid outright war, by renouncing the nuclear deal he has emboldened Iran’s hard-liners and has exacerbated tensions.
In the case of China, where the long-delayed summit meeting with President Xi Jinping is now set for next week, the smart money seems to think that Trump will pull back from the brink yet again. The stock market, after plunging in late May, is back to near its peak.
Yet the problems with China’s predatory trade model are real. Containing its impact on the United States will require a complex array of sticks and carrots, not just the threat or execution of tariffs. If Trump and Xi cut a face-saving deal that doesn’t change China’s model in any serious way, the winner will be the stock market and President Xi, and the loser will be the United States.