Although Trump signed "phase one" of his "biggest and greatest deal ever" with China in early 2020, Chinese importers never purchased as many American farm goods as they were supposedly going to under the deal.
By the middle of last year, China had only purchased about 25 percent of their normal amount and while some of that can be blamed on the coronavirus pandemic, China's total purchases in 2020 fell below expectations even after accounting for the pandemic. It's also true that Trump never gave them a good reason to follow through. He never lifted his tariffs and never stopped blaming China for every problem in the world including the coronavirus which he referred to as the "China virus."
President Biden has not lifted Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods, at least not yet, but that isn't stopping China from buying record amounts of American farm goods for the upcoming season.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Biden administration and their Chinese counterparts met in Alaska for their first around of talks last week when the largest purchases were made.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced almost 4 million metric tons of corn sales to China last week. That’s on top of 5 million tons sold in January and February, or more than five times the amount a year earlier. [...]
As a result, China has bought a record amount of corn this season, and soybean purchases are running at the highest level in USDA data going back to 1991. That’s sent futures for the commodities to multi-year highs.
“It’s interesting that the purchases happened the week of the meeting,” said John Baize, an independent agriculture trade analyst based outside of Washington. “China wanted to send a positive signal,” he said.
“They are very good at timing things.”
Is this what it looks like? Are they trying to buy a little good will from the new administration?
Maybe. If that's the case, good! Let them buy some good will. Let them give the Biden administration all the ammunition they need to justify ending the trade war here at home. That's what they need to do it; they need good will and money.
The administration does not have to explain to China why Trump's war should end because they never wanted it in the first place; they only retaliated. It's American farmers and labor unions that are pressuring the White House to keep Trump's trade war going. The Chinese government is undoubtedly aware of that so they're going to throw money at their proverbial constituents here in America.
Money changes a lot of minds and it's time for everyone to stop pretending that it doesn't.