In early March last year, the eve of the U.S.-China trade war, President Donald Trump declared in a tweet that "trade wars are good, and easy to win." A year later, as American and Chinese negotiators put the finishing touches on a trade deal to end their trade war, it should become abundantly clear to the former real estate magnate that trade wars are not only bad, but also very hard to win.
What Trump expected to be a "cake walk" turned out to be a monthslong slog with Beijing, a clear underdog in the fight. Yet, by refusing to capitulate and dragging out the talks, President Xi Jinping bought valuable time in dealing with his toughest foreign policy challenge since coming to power in late 2012. In the event of a deal, Xi will gain even more time to formulate and execute a long-term strategy to confront a United States that has elevated China to the unwelcome status of its most serious strategic adversary.