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U.S.-China gloom deepens

Part of the daily SupChina newsletter. Subscribe for free

Our usual roundup of trade war news is here, but in case you overdosed on Zoloft or were feeling too happy today, here are a few things to think about:

  • “The dismay I feel over the bipartisan hardening of U.S. attitudes towards China is outweighed only by my dismay at the hardening of Chinese attitudes that has prompted it. I think we are watching a real tragedy in the making.” That’s a tweet from economist Patrick Chovanec, who is a China watcher, but certainly no panda hugger.
  • “The explosive growth in the U.S. trade deficit that came from China joining the World Trade Organization cost an estimated 3.4 million jobs, according to a new report released Tuesday,” according to MarketWatch. The report was published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which is a non-partisan think tank, “affiliated with the labor movement” and with a “liberal viewpoint on public policy issues,” according to Wikipedia. Yet another piece of evidence that it’s not just Peter “Death by China” Navarro’s people blaming U.S. job losses on China — the argument is coming from the other side of the fence, too.
  • “The chances of a U.S.-China war” is the title of a piece on Axios, the champion hitter of Washington D.C. inside baseball. The article quotes Graham Allison, author of Destined for War: Can America and China escape Thucydides’s Trap, on the likelihood of a U.S.-China war breaking out. Allison’s answer: “The chance of war is still less than 50%, but ‘is real — and much more likely than is generally recognized.’”
  • Author and former Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times Richard McGregor is also cited by Axios. He says he “finds more current relevance in another Thucydides maxim — that while it is dangerous to build an empire, it is even more dangerous to renounce it.”

A war between the two countries remains unlikely, but the prospect of a military confrontation—resulting, for example, from a Chinese campaign against Taiwan—no longer seems as implausible as it once did. And the odds of such a confrontation going nuclear are higher than most policymakers and analysts think.

Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.