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China Plays Hardball on Trade as It Deems U.S. Resolve Easing

May 09 , 2019

The new hard line taken by China in trade talks—surprising the White House and threatening to derail negotiations—came after Beijing interpreted recent statements and actions by President Trump as a sign the U.S. was ready to make concessions, said people familiar with the thinking of the Chinese side.

High-level negotiations are scheduled to resume Thursday in Washington, but the expectations and the stakes have changed significantly. A week ago, the assumption was that negotiators would be closing the deal. Now, they are trying to keep it from collapsing.

Adding to the pressure, the U.S. formally filed paperwork Wednesday to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from the current 10% at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Beijing’s Commerce Ministry responded by threatening to take unspecified countermeasures. At a campaign rally in Florida Wednesday night, Mr. Trump said Chinese leaders “broke the deal” in trade talks with the U.S.

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