The US imports far more from China than it exports to China. Trade flows between the two will never be balanced no matter what Trump may wish for. China simply makes a lot of “stuff” that the rest of the world demands – including products made by US companies with a manufacturing or outsourcing base in China. Global supply chains are now very complex. Disruption at one point of the chain can have a raft of unintended consequences.
The official newspaper of the Chinese communist party, the People’s Daily, included a rare warning in a recent editorial: “Don’t say we didn’t warn you” it said, whilst hinting China may place an embargo on rare earth exports to the US. China dominates the global supply of rare earths and the US imports around 80% of its needs from China. This move would probably hurt China as much (or even more) than the US, but it demonstrates how foolish this spate of trade bullying has become.
History suggests that tariffs are easy to impose but never that easy to remove. We can only hope, therefore, that this “war” ends quickly before changes become entrenched.