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Lacking Coherent Strategy, Trump Aims to Assert Toughness in China Trade Row

© AP Photo / Andy Wong, File / In this Nov. 9, 2017, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
In this Nov. 9, 2017, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing - Sputnik International
The Chinese government has condemned the administration of US President Donald Trump for its move to prepare yet another round of tariffs targeting $200 billion in goods, vowing to respond in kind.

How far is Trump prepared to escalate the trade war? Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear spoke with Trade Justice New York Metro activist Pete Dolack and Jude Woodward, author of "The US vs China: Asia's New Cold War?" to find out.

"Trump is betting on the fact that the US is stronger than China, and in the end can bend China to its will," Woodward told Loud & Clear hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker. "I think that's the only conclusion that can be drawn."

On Tuesday, Trump announced the new round of tariffs despite fierce condemnation from his own political party, Sputnik News reported. US Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, derided the move as "reckless."

"This has nothing to do with trade deficits," Woodward stressed. "It is to do with stopping China [from] developing technologically. China is losing some lower-paying jobs to other countries which have low wages like Vietnam, etc. Because it's moving up the value chain, wages are higher, so it has to move up the value chain technologically. So the goods it's producing are of a higher value, otherwise it will end up with a deficit. That's what China is trying to do and Trump is trying to stop it."

The US tariffs against China "may ultimately hurt, rather than help the average American," Dolack said. "I think the suggestion just now that this is more of a case of Trump trying to show everybody — the world, and China included — who's the toughest guy, probably that's the single biggest motivation for Trump."

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"A lot of this policy is being driven by Robert Lighthizer, who's the United States Trade Representative, who is a longtime corporate lawyer, who is a longtime hawk on China and China trade issues,' the activist said.

Dolack says the notion of there being a long-term strategy at play is dubious. "What we're seeing is a tit-for-tat: Trump announces some sanctions, China announces they will counter with an identical amount. Today, Trump is saying that ‘Well, we're gonna go take it a step further, and we're going to apply another $200 billion dollars, and he's threatening to up it as many as $500 billion dollars, the supposed size of the US-China trade deficit."

The move is the latest in a row against a country whose trade practices Trump repeatedly railed against during his presidential campaign. In January, the US imposed tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines from China. Then, in March, the president revealed a plan to place a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent charge on aluminum imports.

By May, it appeared that the world's two largest economies had reached a brief period of a detente after tariff implementation was put on hold following negotiations. But then, in June, Trump pushed ahead with plans to impose them the following month.

On July 6, tariffs against $34 billion in Chinese goods, including auto parts, soybeans, and fish, went into effect, Sputnik News reported. Beijing responded by issuing a complaint to the World Trade Organization and has vowed to do so again following Trump's latest threat.

"Trump is somebody who I don't think really understands how these kinds of issues really work," Dolack said.

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