The US and China are the world’s largest and second-largest economies.
They are also entwined in so many ways that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other starts. Some call it “Chimerica.” which is an apt description.
But that’s not bad.
International trade promotes peace and prosperity for all. It’s not always smooth, evenly distributed, or free of issues. But such is the nature of great affairs.
In the long run, China’s growth has made the world better. Billions, and I mean literally billions, of people globally have been lifted out of poverty.
All that said, the US and China are also separate nations with separate interests. We compete as well as cooperate. So, conflicts inevitably arise.
They need to be resolved, but not in the way Trump has proposed.
He fails to grasp one thing. Impairing an economy so tied to our own weakens the US as well.
China Is on Shaky Ground
Trump demands China that respect intellectual property rights and compete fairly. Just as we let Chinese companies operate here.
It’s a legit demand.
But China can’t just flip a switch. Entire regions and industries are optimized for a model we want to change.
However necessary, the change will take time. It will cause problems if it’s not managed well.
Worse, China’s economy is already on shaky ground.
Its unique blend of communism, capitalism, and sheer size, has produced enviable growth. I think growth will keep up, but a slowdown is inevitable.
China is still subject to the law of large numbers. It can’t maintain 6% or higher GDP growth indefinitely.
We’ve seen hints in data for some time now. And they’re starting to add up.
For one, the gap between US and China GDP growth has been shrinking in the last decade.
Then automotive sales are rolling over.
That’s partly due to the rise of ride-sharing services. But it also suggests the growth of Chinese middle-class prosperity has slowed.
It’s also a result of “front-loading” auto sales for the previous few years. When you pull future demand forward, the future eventually demands repayment.
This Isn’t Just a Chinese Problem
US and European automakers export vehicles to China and own factories in China.
China’s slowdown is one reason General Motors closed several plants and laid off thousands of workers last year.
Then you probably heard Apple’s revenue warning. It blamed weakening conditions in China.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth.
A great deal of world growth is directly tied to Chinese growth. And not just absolute current growth, but expected future growth.