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05/07/2020
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Economic and political context of the trade deal that America and China will sign on January 15th

The “phase one” agreement trims tariffs and obliges China to buy more from American farmers. But do not be fooled. It is a modest accord that cannot disguise how the world’s central relationship is at its most perilous juncture since before Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong re-established links five decades ago. The two sides used to think they could both thrive; today each has a vision of success in which the other lot falls behind. A partial dismantling of their bonds is under way. In the 2020s the world will discover just how far this decoupling will go, how much it will cost.

USA vs China: The planet’s biggest break-up is under way 

Jan. 2.– On January 15th, after three years of a bitter trade war, America and China are US vs China splitdue to sign a “phase one” deal that trims tariffs and obliges China to buy more from American farmers. Don’t be fooled. This modest accord cannot disguise how the world’s most important relationship is at its most perilous juncture since before Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong re-established links five decades ago.

The threat to the West from China’s high-tech authoritarianism has become all too clear. Everything from its pioneering artificial-intelligence firms to its gulags in Xinjiang spread alarm across the world.

Just as visible is America’s incoherent response, which veers between demanding that the Chinese government buy Iowan soyabeans and insisting it must abandon its state-led economic model. The two sides used to think they could both thrive; today each has vision of success in which the other lot falls behind. A partial dismantling of their bonds is under way. In the 2020s the world will discover just how far this decoupling will go, how much it will cost and whether, as it confronts China, America will be tempted to compromise its own values.

The roots of the superpower split go back 20 years. When China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001 reformers at home and friends abroad dreamed that it would liberalise its economy and, perhaps, its politics too, smoothing its integration into an American-led world order.

That vision has died ...

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