As China Trade Talks Stall, Xi Faces a Dilemma: Fold? Or Double Down? – The New York Times

At their first summit meeting just two years ago, Mr. Xi told Mr. Trump that China and the United States had “a thousand reasons” to work well together. But the slow pace of negotiations could tarnish in Mr. Xi’s carefully drawn image at home as a master strategist.

More than two years into the Trump presidency, Chinese officials still appear to struggle to understand the president, his temperament and his negotiating style. American politicians and experts say that Chinese counterparts often fail to grasp how far and fast wariness of China has hardened into hostility.

“There are a lot of voices in Washington that are either sharply or harshly critical of China’s actions in trade, in their military expansionism, in their actions in the South China Sea — fill in the blank,” Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat senator from Delaware, said in an interview in Beijing late last month after meeting Chinese officials.

Mr. Xi’s top economic official, Vice Premier Liu He, who leads the Chinese negotiators, could also suffer a setback in his standing if the latest talks falter.

“If, say, Liu He comes back to Beijing empty-handed, and there’s more tirades from Trump on his Twitter account, I think things could get really wild,” Zhang Jian, an associate professor of government at Peking University, said in an interview. “It’s going to spill out of the economic waters.”

Just over a week ago, the outlook for the trade negotiations seemed rosier. Chinese and American officials met in Beijing then for a 10th round of talks aimed at easing trade and economic tensions that spiked after Mr. Trump progressively imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of goods last year.

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