Donald Trump has been in office long enough for certain patterns to emerge in his behaviour. The US president likes to create a crisis, let it run a while and then announce that he has solved it. He will frighten friend and foe alike with dire threats, before striking an agreement that he self-certifies as “tremendous”. In reality, the new deal will often be superficial and the underlying issues will remain largely unaddressed. This is the model that the Trump administration has followed with North Korea, as well as with Mexico and Canada. And it is the model that is pretty clearly going to emerge in Trump’s “trade war” with China. In a few weeks’ time, the US president will declare a great victory. His loyal aides will play along. But the underlying reality will be that not much has actually changed in the economic relationship between the US and China — in the same way that not much changed in the trade relationship between the US, Canada and Mexico after Trump’s team renegotiat...

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