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China shouldn’t bet on Trump’s base deserting him in the trade war

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Now that the US-China trade war has darkened the doors of companies depending on the world’s most robust bilateral economic relationship, prognostication over how long this fight will last has begun.

Beijing is betting on a low threshold of pain among US voters in the country’s “red states”. The strategy makes sense at first blush. Target products made in states that voted for Donald Trump, pork and soybeans for example, and the president’s support will fall away.

The targets also include US ginseng, which comes from Wisconsin. The Midwestern state’s election night result in 2016 delivered a shock to the Democrats that many still haven’t recovered from. Hillary Clinton’s loss in a state that had not gone to a Republican presidential candidate since 1984 showed how badly voters there wanted a departure from politics as usual.

Beijing is hoping that a dose of economic pain will show these voters, and those in swing states, that Trump was the wrong solution to their grievances.

US-China trade war: who wins, who loses?

The pressure caused by the loss of a lucrative export market will, the logic goes, lead to losses for Trump’s Republican party in November’s midterm elections, undercutting Trump’s ability to wage trade wars.

But what if Beijing is wrong? Chinese officials have already miscalculated by not realising how different the Trump White House is from every administration since Richard........

© South China Morning Post