Trump asserted that China 'really has to make a deal' when speaking to reporters yesterday, but China clearly doesn't see it that way.
Any pretense that waging a trade war with China is economically imperative has evaporated as Trump's cult of personality has consumed the conflict and transformed it into a geopolitical pissing match.
Chinese officials now say they're not making any concessions or cutting any deals out of principle.
BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday Beijing will not yield to any “maximum pressure” from Washington, and any attempt by the United States to force China into accepting a trade deal will fail.
China will not make concessions on matters of principle, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters at a regular briefing. [...]
Asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s accusation that China reneged on its promises, Gao said: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Trump is not asking the Chinese to cut a deal for economic reasons as much as he's asking them to cut a deal for his own personal vanity and political ambitions. And they're not stupid; they know what time of day it is.
Trump's belligerence has made it increasingly difficult if not impossible for the Chinese government to give him anything he wants, much less everything he wants. China's ruling communist party may largely control what the public sees and hears, but they still can't afford to look weak in the face of aggression from the Orange Kool-Aid Man. The leverage they hold over other nations within their sphere of influence depends on their ability to defend themselves both militarily and economically. Trump has threatened their sovereignty and their global reputation.
In short, Trump started a trade war with possibly the only other country in the world that has the economic power and the political will to resist everything he throws at them.
I don't know what's going to happen after the G-20 summit later this month, but the idea that Trump will cut a substantive deal feels so remote I had difficulty even writing this with a straight face.