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罗思义:与特朗普的经济持久战,中国最具有杀伤力的武器是什么?

2019-06-04 17:25:51

文/观察者网专栏作者 罗思义】

“至少有其他两个组织对美国金融市场的影响力大于白宫——美联储和中国共产党。特朗普不能直接控制它们中的任意一个。”

这一直白的分析出自西方最资深、最严谨的金融专家之一、彭博社高级编辑和英国《金融时报》前首席评论员约翰·奥瑟斯(John Authers)。这段话概括了美国总统特朗普所面临的经济和政治问题。如下文所示,它还概述了中美各自在贸易战中的相对优势,点明了美国政府攻击中国的策略,断言了唯一可以防止特朗普政府实现其阻挠中国发展目标的政策。

约翰·奥瑟斯对美国金融市场和政策的分析,有力地印证了中国国家主席习近平最近在于都县的重要讲话——中国必须自力更生,应对美国政府阻止中国实现繁荣和民族复兴的企图。

习近平在于都县参观中央红军长征出发地纪念馆(图片来源:新华网)

在中美这场贸易/经济战争中,中国自身的处境固然是最重要的,但中国能否准确预判美国下一步所采取的行动也很重要。这就引出了本文的主题——为何特朗普政府拒绝接受与中国的“双赢”关系,以及特朗普政府选择“双输”逻辑的必然结果是什么。

这样的分析反过来表明,中国将中美贸易战与“长征”或“持久战”做对比,不是简简单单运用修辞学的隐喻或是仅仅体现对于中国共产党历史传统的继承,而是为我们理解当前形势提供了准确的框架。

当然,区别在于,这是一场经济战争,而非军事战争。因此,斗争武器也有所不同。这就有必要分析美国最敏感的痛点是什么,中国最具杀伤力的武器是什么。反之,对美国经济形势的考察,可以充分印证对中国所面临形势的分析,以及中国不同社会阶层对当前中美摩擦的反应。

中国“示弱”能换来怜悯吗?

就中美贸易战中国方面的反应而言,人大重阳研金融究院执行院长王文就中国不同社会阶层对特朗普政府“经济侵略”的反应,进行了极为正确的分析。王文在其题为《不管风吹浪打,胜似闲庭信步》的文章中指出:“绝大多数普通民众都高度拥护国家对美国霸凌主义行径的反制政策,当下的恐美情绪主要存在于部分社会精英层中。

比如,在微信、微博、新媒体及坊间、饭局中,常常会出现一些言论、段子、漫画、数据甚至一些传言、谣言,论证中国反击措施的无理,歪曲中国斗而不破的立场,描述中国正在恶化的现状,勾勒中国终将失败的未来。还有一些人片面采用一些数据与事例,夸大美国经济增长的强劲,美化美国资本市场的稳健,虚构美国与国际盟友们的团结,编造美国社会精英的友善。”

特别值得注意的是,美国的表现以及操纵特朗普政府的各种势力的所作所为,从外部充分印证了王文对中国国内形势的分析——中国任何寄希望美国“怜悯”的示弱,都只会换来美国加大对中国的攻击。

特朗普的软肋——选举和金融

任何对美国形势的分析,都不能忽视特朗普面临的最重要的日子——2020年11月3日(下一届美国总统大选日)。确保连任是他的至高目标,并因此决定特朗普政府的政策。为此,三个时间框架至关重要。

1.金融市场事件的影响,可能在很短的时间内发生——在某些情况下是分钟/小时,几乎总是在几天到几个月内产生强烈影响。

2.2019年到2020年美国经济增长将放缓,这必然是影响特朗普2020年连任的负面因素。经济增长放缓会与美国消费税政策产生的不利影响相互作用,导致诸如消费品价格上涨和农产品价格下跌。(我的新书《别误读中国经济》详细分析了2019-2020年美国经济放缓的原因)

3.试图通过强迫或者忽悠中国放弃社会主义发展道路,从而减缓中国中长期经济增速。这也会导致中国的经济活力在中短期内减弱,从而降低中国对他国的吸引力,以此削弱中国在贸易战中与他别国的同盟关系。

这三个时间框架印证了一个基本事实——尽管中国与大多数国家,甚至与一些美国前总统,都可以建立双赢关系,但特朗普政府是个例外。这是因为特朗普政府已经用事实承认,其政策给美国经济施加的痛苦将会让美国成为输家,而他们现在所作的只是试图努力确保中国比美国输得更多。

特朗普政府最近宣布向美国农民提供160亿美元援助的计划,以补偿他们因美中关税战升级所遭受的损失。但越来越多的美国人认识到,美国农民的救济金是由其他美国纳税人买单。正如美国有线电视新闻网(CNN)指出:“有人认为墨西哥应该支付隔离墙费用,但事实并非如此,现在有人觉得中国应该支付唐纳德·特朗普总统拯救美国农民的计划。当然,这两种说法都不是真的。”

特朗普在白宫办公室接见美国农民代表(图片来源:IC photo)

来自权威的西方经济研究机构牛津经济研究院(该机构与中国并无联系)的数据显示,特朗普关税影响更多的是美国民众:“中国制造业降低了美国消费品价格,抑制通货膨胀,让美国消费者的钱包更充裕……与中国的贸易可令美国家庭一年节省850美元。”考虑到对全球经济,包括美国盟友们的负面影响,彭博社等机构估计,如果中美打一整年的贸易战,全球经济的损失将高达6000亿美元。

除了这些关税影响外,特朗普政府同样关注来自消费者的抵制,或针对企业的限制对美国公司造成的影响,这种负面影响将会等同于美国政府施加给华为的伤害。

比如,《金融时报》指出,美国对华为实施制裁的直接目标不是简单地或主要地停止芯片和软件的供应,而是要摧毁华为产品在西方的消费市场,因为西方消费者希望保证能够获得谷歌产品的后续服务:“谷歌(Google)上周决定停止将其安卓(Android)操作系统出售给华为用于新手机,这在中国掀不起大浪,华为应该能够说服国内买家切换到其在开发的操作系统。”但在国际市场上,消费者更倾向于安卓系统。

独立分析师温莎(Richard Windsor)估计,失去谷歌生态系统“很可能会使华为失去中国境外市场的全部智能手机出货量。”但《金融时报》同时指出,中国消费者的报复将对美国最重要且最具品牌价值的公司之一——苹果造成毁灭性的财务影响:“北京有报复的余地。其可以使用的手段包括阻止其进入其市场——高盛分析师估计此举可能会使苹果的每股收益减少近30%。”这也是美国公司害怕中国限制稀土出口,以及特别担心中国公布的将建立“不可靠实体清单”制度,对其财务状况造成损害的原因之一。

这些具体的例子清楚地表明,尽管特朗普政府声称,其政策可能开始会给美国经济带来痛苦,但能限制这种损失。讽刺的是,事实正好相反。因此,中国要想打赢贸易战,就得给美国经济造成痛苦,痛到让想要连任的特朗普难以招架。

制造这种痛苦是可能的,决定性的原因在于,虽然与美国消费者、农民和盟友有关的数额听起来很大,但实际上特朗普政府还是可以搞定的,比如给美国农民的160亿美元的补贴。然而,贸易战给美国金融市场造成的潜在影响之大,连6000亿美元的世界经济损失与之相比都算是个小数字。全球经济一年损失6000亿美元,低于美国金融市场单日可能损失的数额,而160亿美元的损失可能在几秒钟内发生。由于美国金融市场规模庞大,特朗普政府没有足够的资源,来控制超过30万亿美元的美国股票市场或160万亿美元的美国国债市场。因此,美国金融市场大幅下跌给美国带来的痛苦,在某种程度上严重危害特朗普政府稳定。

对特朗普政府面临的所有三个时间框架的分析,可能需要单独写三篇文章或者一篇长文。由于篇幅有限,这里暂不作详细分析,下文将仅就这其中最迫在眉睫且影响最大的首要问题——中美贸易战对美国金融市场的影响,进行分析。

在美国,总统无法控制金融市场

本文开头引用的约翰·奥瑟斯的直白分析,准确地反映了一个美国总统在国内经济中所实际扮演的角色——这与中国普遍的看法不同。与中国相反,在美国政府体制下,总统对最有效的经济杠杆几乎没有直接控制权——美国没有大型国有经济部门可由总统指挥以增加经济的活力,联邦预算由国会而不是总统决定,根据美国法律利率是由美联储而非总统控制。

引起奥瑟斯注意的是,中国自己就是贸易战中的新要素,这也是美国总统无法控制的。事实充分证明,现在中国的言论和行动对美国金融市场的影响非常大,具体例子见下文。美国前财政部长萨默斯(Larry Summers)在《华盛顿邮报》的一篇评论文章中清楚地用数字描述了这一点:“星期一(5月13日),中国宣布对美国600亿美元商品加征关税,随后美国威胁对3000亿美元中国商品加征关税。这些动作被认为是道琼斯工业平均指数下跌超过600点、跌幅约为2.4%的主要原因。由于美股的总市值约为30万亿美元,这一跌幅代表美股损失7000多亿美元。

中国宣布对美国600亿商品加征关税,道琼斯工业股指应声下跌(图片来源: IC photo)

中国针对特朗普的举动,将美商品关税从10%提高到25%,直接导致美国股东损失7000亿美元。为举例说明这一直接影响,奥瑟斯指出,当特朗普宣布对中国加征关税后的一周内,中国并未做出反应时,美股没有明显波动,而当中国宣布反制措施后,美国股市瞬间做出反应:“公平地说,华尔街没有预料到中国会对美国加征中国商品关税进行报复。上周,唐纳德·特朗普总统宣布对中国商品加征新关税的负面反应出人意料地缓和下来。周一,在中国在美国投市开盘前公布反制措施后,标准普尔500指数的跌幅超过了上周的水平。”

奥瑟斯认为,中国的应对技巧日益娴熟,他同时指出此举对美国市场造成的影响:“问题在于,中国越来越知道如何应对。中国知道,攻击美国总统的弱点,在于摧毁道琼斯指数。因此,其不仅对美国商品加征关税作为报复,而且特意在中国夜间、临近美国股市开盘前宣布反制措施,以达到报复的最大效果。”

如上文所述,美国股市单日损失7000亿美元,超过了贸易战带给全球经济一年的预期损失,是特朗普对美国农民160亿美元补贴的40多倍。但即便如此,与中国的经济反制措施给美国金融市场带来的损失相比,这个数字也很小。正如奥瑟斯所说:“过去五年,最令美国市场恐惧的事件是中国人民币在2015年突然贬值。”

人民币贬值的影响是显而易见的。从2015年8月10日至8月24日的仅仅14天间,人民币汇率下跌3.0%。8月25日,美国标准普尔500指数随之下跌11.2%。根据当前美国股市市值衡量,这相当于美股损失3.8万亿美元,是中美贸易战带给全球经济一年预期损失总额的6倍,是特朗普对农民补贴金额的200多倍。

上述数据并非是向中国建议任何具体的行动方案。笔者深知,与美国进行贸易谈判和制作经济政策时,中国必须考虑诸多因素。一些关键信息只有参与谈判的人才知道。此外,中国不仅必须考虑到制定的政策对中国国内的影响,而且还要考虑到它们对美国的影响。但这些数据表明,中国采取的行动对美国金融市场的影响极为深远,因此特朗普政府对此非常敏感。相关的金融数据清楚地解释了为什么这种影响比关税对农民和消费者的影响来得更快更大。

特朗普的真正目标是“双输”

鉴定中国可能给美国金融市场和美国经济造成多大程度的痛苦至关重要,因为事实上,特朗普的关税政策的目的并非为了改善美国自身的现状。彭博社专栏作家诺亚·史密斯(Noah Smith)在题为《特朗普对华贸易战的残酷逻辑:可能并不是以美国利益最大化为目标》中,精辟准确地总结了特朗普政府的真正目标。正如王文指出,除了买办在为中国向美国道歉外,特朗普政策的这一逻辑在中国现已广为人知。尽管如此,我们还是有必要引述一下彭博社的分析,以下这段话从美国视角极为贴切地总结了特朗普政府的逻辑:

“贸易战使美国付出了代价。经济学家的数据证明,关税的实际负担主要落在了美国消费者身上。换句话说,消费者为进口商品支付的价格上升了……生产资料和中间产品价格增加提高了美国制造商的开支,降低了他们的竞争力。与此同时,中国的报复伤害了美国农民……因此,随着损失的增加,似乎没有理由继续进行贸易战。然而,特朗普却在变本加厉。那么,原因何在?

如果特朗普想延缓中国作为超级大国的崛起速度,贸易战可能是一种有效的手段。如果对美国的伤害是适度的,而中国付出的代价是严重和持久的,特朗普可能会得出这样的结论:前一种损失可以接受。基于这种逻辑,‘地缘政治而非美国利益最大化至上’是总统的真正目标。”

换言之,正如在农业补贴方面已经表明的那样,特朗普政府并不认为,关税和其他针对中国的经济侵略形式有利于美国经济繁荣,相反它们会造成经济损失。但为了推行保守主义政策,阻止中国实现繁荣和民族复兴,特朗普还是决定宁愿让美国民众和企业遭受痛苦。但这项政策要求“对美国的伤害是适度的”。问题在于,加征关税越多,尤其是如果中国采取报复行动,那么不仅对美国金融市场,对美国消费者(即美国选民)的伤害就越大。

奥瑟斯指出:“与此同时,未来美国仍然可以加征更多关税,但目前为止其选择攻击的商品在很大程度上都不是受消费者重视的。任何进一步的关税转嫁到消费品中,价格上涨就将是显而易见和痛苦的,甚至可能再次推高利率。”正如已经指出的那样,这对美国金融市场的影响可能比关税的直接影响严重得多。

一旦了解特朗普政府的真正目标,就会明白特朗普政府的目标不在于改善美国经济或提高美国民众的经济地位,以及特朗普政府的政策为什么不会因为中国让步或寻求双赢而停止。中国一些势力声称,只要中国向美国让步或求饶,那么特朗普政府就将会停止攻击,这有悖于事实。相反,这样的政策将导致特朗普政府变本加厉。这源于特朗普政府的政策不是为美国寻求双赢,而是创造双输的目标——只要美国遭受的经济损失是“适度的”就行。特朗普政府的这种立场逻辑意味着,任何中国地位的削弱、任何美国痛苦的减轻,都会加剧特朗普政府的具侵略性,而不减少。

特朗普追求的不是“赢”而是“输”(图片来源:IC photo)

这说明,尽管大多数国家都在寻求与中国取得双赢,并在此基础上进行适当的接触,这也是中国外交政策的宗旨。但这不适用于特朗普政府,因为其不想“赢”——它只想寻求某种“输”——只要这种“输”在他们的预料之中,不足以威胁特朗普的连任就可以。

从这种情况来看,唯一能阻止或者迫使特朗普政府停止攻击中国的方法 ,是令美国遭受的损失大于预期。也就是说,从特朗普政府的利益角度来看,经济损失太大,他们会无法承受。如上文分析,很明显特朗普的忍受度并非以美国人民的利益为考量,而在于是否会影响其连任。总的来说,只有当美国遭受的经济损失足够严重,危及特朗普连任的机会,特朗普政府才会停止对中国的攻击,而去选择“双赢”的结果。

让特朗普回归理性,中国应该怎么做

宣布将对中国商品关税从10%提高到25%后,特朗普本人对于美国金融市场的反应很快证实了美国政府这种“双输逻辑”演化而来的策略:

5月5日,特朗普在推特上宣布将对中国商品关税从10%提高到25%,当时中国并没有宣布对策,标准普尔500指数第二天仅下跌0.5%。

5月13日,中国宣布反制措施,标准普尔500指数单日下跌2.4%。正如拉里•萨默斯指出,美国股东单日损失7000亿美元。

接下来的一周,特朗普政府宣称贸易谈判将恢复,财政部长史蒂文·努钦可能在不久的将来访问北京,结果标普500指数应声上涨1.7%。

在美国金融市场有所复苏后,特朗普又对中国发起了新的攻击,要求美国公司获得美国政府的许可后,才能向华为出售组件和软件。

中国随后在5月23日对此作出强烈回应。正如《华尔街日报》指出:“道琼斯工业平均指数周四下跌286点……此前一位中国官员表示,如果美国愿意继续谈判,应该以诚意,‘调整错误行动’。道琼斯指数本周下跌0.7%,连续第五周下跌,创2011年以来的最长下跌周期。”

为应对美国金融市场的下跌,特朗普随后在新闻发布会上软化立场并当场宣布,与中国的贸易谈判“很有可能”回到正轨,华为问题可能会在该谈判中得到解决。

这种短期模式非常清晰:当中国不作出反应,美国金融市场没有下跌时,特朗普会继续攻击中国。相反,当中国作出强烈反应,美国金融市场下跌时,特朗普则会软化立场,对中国示好。

特朗普的长期应对模式与短期应对模式如出一辙,他会根据中国的反应切换自如地强化或软化立场:

2018年,当美国经济增长有所加速、经济周期经历正常的上行波动以及股票市场强劲时,特朗普对中国主动出击,推出第一套反华关税,并威胁将其扩大到更广泛的商品范围,将税率提高至25%。

然后,2018年末,美国经济增长开始放缓,美联储不得不加息,美股下跌。为应对这种局面,2019年初特朗普软化立场,将针对中国商品加征关税从10%提高至25%的期限推迟。

当美国经济似乎在2019年第一季度复苏,美联储暂停加息,美股上涨时,特朗普随后宣布对中国采取新一轮攻击,将中国商品关税从10%提高到25%。

一言以蔽之,当特朗普政府觉得自己处于强势地位时,就会加大对中国的攻击;当特朗普政府因为美国金融市场遭受的痛苦而底气不足时,其对中国的立场就会回归理性。

从真正的战争到贸易战——历史给出了答案

虽然上述分析清楚地体现了特朗普政府为何不回应双赢框架,而只在意美国遭受的经济痛苦会否危及特朗普连任的原因,但为避免任何误解,有必要指出,美国会避免和中国决一死战。所有的证据都表明,特朗普对美国长期利益的兴趣比大多数总统都要小。对他来说,那些明确危及他2020年连任的经济痛苦是唯一不可接受的。

举一场战争的例子有助于我们了解这一点——这是一场是真正的战争,而非贸易战。这场战争——越南战争以美国认输告终。当时的越南政府的应对策略很有技巧,以政治影响达成了军事目标。越南战争中的两大进攻战役——1968年的春节攻势和1972年的复活节攻势,均是在美国总统选举年发动的。这两场战役都没有导致美国军事失败,但对美国总统的政治伤害确保了越南的胜利——林登·约翰逊在春节后由于连任无望不得不放弃竞选,尼克松深信他作为总统的地位将受到战争的威胁,于是他于1969年后开始逐步撤军,1972年复活节攻势后决定撤出全部美军。简言之,越南战胜美国,并非是在军事上全面战胜美国,而是给美国总统带来政治伤害,以至于其为了维护自己的地位,不得不撤军。越南的军事斗争是其对美国取得决定性政治胜利的手段。

遭受政治上失败的美国不得不从越南撤军(图片来源:网络)

但美国遭受政治失败的前提是越南敢于与美国进行军事斗争。如果越南停止给美国带去痛苦(比如未让美国遭受巨大的战争代价或人员损失),那么美国不会撤军,反而会加大对越南的攻击。这可以从美国取得巨大胜利的相反例子——苏联解体中看出。时任苏联总统戈尔巴乔夫选择向美国求饶。但美国并没有因此放过苏联,反而加大了对苏联的攻击,最终导致苏联解体。俄罗斯总统普京把苏联解体称为“20世纪最大的地缘政治灾难”。苏联解体后,美国并未收手,而是对继承了苏联绝大部分遗产的俄罗斯继续攻击,比如将几乎所有东欧和前苏联的大部分地区纳入北约,并对在俄罗斯战略上具有决定性的地位的邻国乌克兰发动攻击。

美国当前攻击中国的策略,充分印证了习近平在于都发表重要讲话时强调的“最重要的还是做好我们自己的事情”。为避免双输,中国一直寻求与美国实现双赢,而非对抗。但是,一旦特朗普政府开始与中国进行双输的对抗,那么这样的斗争只能依靠中国自身的力量来赢得。只有给特朗普政府施加足够的痛苦,才能让他们认识到最好抛弃“双输”战略。而他们衡量这种痛苦是否可以承受的标准是特朗普连任的机会。

幸运的是,中美当前的斗争是经济战争,而非真正的战争。经济战争中的轻型武器,不是步枪和左轮手枪,而是针对农产品的关税和所需要的补贴。中型武器是消费者抵制,重型武器则是上文所分析的对美国金融市场施加的影响。这是自1949年中华人民共和国建国以来取得巨大历史进步的标志,因为中国现在只需要应对特朗普政府的经济攻击,而在一个多世纪前中国必须应对军事入侵。

1933年—1934年,国民党对中央苏区发动第五次军事“围剿”,红军反“围剿”失败,被迫开始进行长征。即便红军当时向国民党求饶是没有意义的,因为国民党决心摧毁后来缔造了新中国的这支军队。如果当时的红军一味的妥协或求饶,只会招致国民党变本加厉的镇压和屠杀。好在这支军队从未屈服,凭着斗智斗勇,最终战胜了国民党,建立了中华人民共和国,从而为中华民族的复兴奠定了基础。

同样,特朗普政府决心阻止中国实现民族复兴。如前所述,中国没有必要向美国示弱或求饶,否则只会导致其变得更具侵略性。主导特朗普政府政策的新保守主义者们的最终目的,是阻止中国实现民族复兴,而确保这一点的最终手段是设法令中国重蹈苏联覆辙,如同前苏联一样遭受历史性灾难。

去年早些时候,我曾把特朗普治下的美国比作老虎。中国没有必要向美国这只老虎求饶,否则它只会变本加厉攻击中国,它也会把中国任何软弱的迹象作为进一步加大攻击的理由。只有当美国这只老虎感到害怕时,它才会停止攻击中国。有些人可能认为这种说法比较残酷。但上述事例表明,事实就是如此。

面对残酷的“围剿”,红军并未屈服,最终为民族复兴奠定了基础(图片来源:网络)

谁才是中国真正的精英?

最后,特别要提到的是,近来的很多文章提到了中国的“社会精英”——也许还有部分“经济精英”。中国媒体在定义“精英”时往往遵循非常模糊的标准,而近来发生的事件清楚地表明,这些“精英”并不能真正称为中国社会精英。中国的情况表明,恰恰是中国的普通民众,他们了解特朗普政权侵略行为,并坚定支持习近平和其他中国领导人采取强硬立场。

而中国社会精英中的一些人完全误判了形势,认为绥靖政策和向美国求饶会让特朗普政府减少对中国的攻击。中国普通民众与知识精英的认知正好相反。作为知识精英意味着得准确判断形势,但正如近来发生的事件表明,他们完全是错误的。正确认识特朗普政权、支持共产党领导地位的,正是中国普通民众,这说

明他们才是真正的知识精英。那些误判形势的人可能是社会精英,也可能不是社会精英。那些未能准确看清形势并对美国抱有天真幻想的人充其量只能算是“伪精英”知识分子罢了。

结论

上文对美国经济和金融市场形势的分析,充争印证了其他人对中国形势的分析。本文解释了特朗普政府不能在双赢的基础上进行合作的原因。同时表明,基于特朗普政府的“双输”立场逻辑,美国金融市场形势是特朗普最敏感的痛点,而这也是中国对付美国的着力点。

附:文章英文原文


What are China’s most powerful weapons in economic ‘prolonged war’ with Trump?


‘At least two other organizations have more power over [US financial] markets than the White House. They are the US Federal Reserve and the Chinese Communist Party. Trump does not directly control either of them.’

This brutal analysis is particularly significant as it is by one of the most senior and accurate Western specialists on financial markets - John Authers, Senior Bloomberg Editor for Markets and former Chief Markets Commentator for the Financial Times. It encapsulates the interaction of economic and political problems facing President Trump. As will be seen it also summarises the relative strengths of China and the US in the ‘trade war’, dictates the US administration’s tactics for attacking China, and determines the only policies which will prevent the Trump administration carrying out its attempt to block China achieving its development goals.

Analysis of these real facts of US financial markets and policy strongly confirms the analysis by Xi Jinping in his recent important speech in Yudu County that China has to rely on its own strength in resisting this attempt by the US administration to prevent China achieving prosperity and national rejuvenation.

While the situation of China itself in the trade/economic war is naturally the most important issue there are of course two sides involved in this conflict – the other aspect of the situation is within the US. Analysis of this, which forms the subject of this article, shows clearly why the Trump administration refuses to accept ‘win-win’ relations with China and what is the inevitable outcome of this administration’s ‘lose-lose’ logic. Such analysis in turn shows that comparisons made in China to the Long March or to protracted war are not simply rhetorical metaphors, or references to the historical traditions of the CPC, but provide an accurate framework to understand the situation.

The difference, of course, is that this is an economic war and not a military one. Therefore, the weapons are different and it is necessary to analyse what are the most sensitive pressure points on the US, and what armaments are most powerful for China. In turn this examination of the situation in the US economy fully confirms the analyses made of the situation in China and the reaction of different social layers to the present conflict with the US.

Trends in China and the US

Examining the Chinese side of the ‘trade war’ Wang Wen has presented an excellent analysis of the reaction of different social strata in China to the Trump administration’s economic aggression. This could only have been written by someone who is Chinese, and it is not appropriate for a non-Chinese citizen to comment on it. But its analysis can be noted: ‘The vast majority of ordinary people are highly supportive of the state's policy of counter-bullying in the United States, and the current fear of the US exists mainly in some social elites. For example, in WeChat, Weibo, new media and anecdotes, at meals, there are often some words, passages, comics, data and even some rumours attempting to demonstrate the irrationality of China's counterattack measures, to distort China's fighting and unbreakable position, to describe China's deteriorating status quo, to outline the future of China's eventual failure. Others have used some data and examples to exaggerate the strength of the US economic growth, glorify the soundness of the US capital market, fictitiously exaggerate the unity of the United States and international allies, and fabricate the friendliness of the American social elite.’

But it is particularly striking that this analysis of trends within China, made by a Chinese citizen, is fully confirmed from another ‘external’ angle – that of the situation in the US and the forces operating on the Trump administration. The facts of the US economy and politics show clearly that any weakness by China, in expectation of ‘mercy’ from the Trump administration, will in reality lead to heightened attacks by the US.

Trump’s economic policy is determined by the coming US Presidential election

The starting point of any analysis of the situation in the US is that President Trump is already entirely aware of the most important date he faces - 3 November 2020, the next US Presidential election. Securing re-election is his paramount goal and this therefore determines the shaping of the Trump administration’s policies. Three time frames are crucial for this.

1.The impact of events in financial markets, which can occur in a very short time frame - in some cases minutes/hours and almost invariably having a strong impact over a period of days to months.

2.The medium-term trajectory of the US economy to slow down during 2019 and 2020 – which is necessarily a negative factor for President Trump’s chances of re-election in 2020 and which interacts with the adverse effects of US tariff policy on US consumers such as price rises and falls in prices to farmers. (The reasons for this slowing of the US economy in 2019-2020 are analysed in detail in my book ‘Don’t Misunderstand China’s Economy’)

3.Attempts to slow China’s economy in the medium/longer term, through forcing or persuading it to abandon its socialist path of development – this, however, also has short/medium term effects in that lessening of the successful dynamic of China’s economy makes it less attractive to other countries and therefore weakens China’s alliances in the trade war.

All three time frames however confirm a fundamental reality – that while China’s relations with most countries, and indeed with some previous US presidents, can be most successful based on ‘win-win’ this will not occur with the Trump administration, This is due to the fact that the Trump administration already acknowledges in practice that its policies will be a US ‘lose’, that is they will inflict pain on the US economy, and it is merely attempting to ensure that the ‘lose’ for China is bigger than the ‘lose’ for the US.

The Trump administration’s ‘lose-lose’ analysis

An illustration on a small scale of the Trump administration’s understanding of the need to attempt to limit the extent of economic pain on the US is its recent announcement of $16 billion of subsidies to US farmers – the bill for which will be financed by other US taxpayers as is increasingly understood in the United States. As CNN noted: ‘Just as Mexico was supposed to pay for the wall, but isn't, now China is supposed to pay for President Donald Trump's plan to bail out US farmers. Neither statement is true, of course.’

Affecting wider sections of the US population, calculations by the respected Western economics company Oxford Economics, which has no connection with China, found: ‘Chinese manufacturing… lowered prices in the United States for consumer goods, dampening inflation and putting more money in American wallets… trade with China… saved these families up to $850 that year.’ Regarding the overall impact on the global economy, including the adverse effect on US allies, Bloomberg and others calculate that the losses in a full year of the trade war would be $600 billion.

In addition to these tariff effects the Trump administration US is equally concerned about the consequences of consumer boycotts, or restrictions, on US companies which would be equivalent to those it has carried out against Huawei. The Financial Times noted for example that the immediate goal of the US sanctions against Huawei are not simply or primarily to stop the supply of chips and software but to destroy the consumer market for Huawei’s products in the West - where customers want guaranteed access to Google dependent products: ’Google’s decision this week to stop selling its Android operating system to Huawei for new handsets makes little difference in China, where Huawei should be able to convince buyers to switch to its operating system, now under development. But customers are more wedded to Android in international markets. Independent analyst Richard Windsor estimates it will lose all those sales.’ But the Financial Times simultaneously noted that consumer retaliation against China would have a devastating financial effect on Apple, one of the US’s core and most valuable companies: ‘Beijing has scope for retaliation. Levers at its disposal include blocking access to its market — a move that Goldman Sachs analysts estimate could reduce Apple’s earnings per share by nearly 30 per cent.’ This is one of the reason’s US companies are particularly worried about the damage to their financial position by the new ‘unreliable list’ announced by China. It is also a reason US companies fear actions on rare earths by China.

These specific examples clearly illustrate that in practice, despite its claims to the contrary, the Trump administration starts from the framework that its policies will inflict pain on the US economy, but that it will be able to limit this loss. China’s route to success is therefore to inflict pain on the US economy to a point that is unacceptable for Trump in seeking re-election.

US financial markets

A decisive reason that such pain for the US is possible is that while the sums noted in relation to US consumers, farmers, and allies above sound large the Trump administration can in fact deal with amounts such as $16 billion to farmers. But even such sums as the $600 billion loss for the global economy are small compared to potential impacts on the size of US financial markets. The loss of $600 billion in a year for the global economy is less than the amount that can be lost in US financial markets in a single day, while a loss of $16 billion can occur in seconds. Due to the sheer scale of US financial markets the Trump administration does not remotely have the resources to control the more than $30,000 billion US share market or the $16,000 billion US Treasury bond market. Pain inflicted on the US in such financial markets is therefore on a scale which is seriously destabilising to the Trump administration.

Examination of all three time frames operating on the Trump administration considered above would require three separate analyses or an inordinately long article. Therefore, due to their sheer scale, this article examines only the first, most short term, but extremely powerful of these issues – the impact of the trade war on US financial markets.

The real situation facing US presidents

John Authers’ blunt comment cited at the beginning of this article, reveals accurately the real domestic economic situation of a US President – which is very different to the frequent perception in China. Unlike China, under the US governmental system the President has little direct control over the most powerful levers of the economy – there is no large state owned economic sector which can be instructed by the President to increase its activity, the Federal budget is decided by the Congress not by the President, and interest rates are controlled by the Federal Reserve which under US law cannot be instructed by the President.

The new factor in the trade war which Authers drew attention to, which is also outside the US President’s control, is China itself. The facts amply confirm that the impact of China’s statements and actions on US financial markets is now very large – as will be demonstrated. Larry Summers, former US Treasury Secretary, clearly spelt out this numerically in a commentary for the Washington Post: ‘On Monday [13 May], China announced new tariffs on $60 billion of US exports, and the United States threatened new tariffs on up to $300 billion of Chinese goods. These actions were cited as the principal reason for a decline of more than 600 points in the Dow Jones industrial average, or about 2.4 percent in broader measures of the stock market. With the total value of US stocks around $30 trillion, this decline represents more than $700 billion in lost wealth.’

This $700 billion loss to US shareholders directly resulted from China’s response to President Trump’s announcement he was raising US tariffs against China from 10% to 25%. To illustrate this direct impact Authers’ accurately noted the difference on US share markets between the week following Trump’s announcement of raising tariffs against China, during which there was no announcement of a precise Chinese response, and the US financial markets’ reaction when China announced its counter tariffs: ‘It’s fair to say that Wall Street did not anticipate China’s retaliation to US tariffs. Last week, the negative reaction to President Donald Trump’s announcement of new tariffs on China was oddly muted. On Monday, after China’s response was announced just before the market opened, the S&P 500 fell by more than it had done in the entire previous week.’

Authers similarly noted the increasing skill of China’s response and its impact on US markets: ‘The problem is that China knows how to respond. China… knows it can attack the presidential weak spot by acting in a way that damages the Dow. Hence, it not only retaliated with tariffs of its own, but announced them just as the New York market was about to open, at night in China, for maximum effect.’

As already noted, the $700 billion loss in a single day on US share markets was larger than the projected loss to the world economy for an entire year due to the trade war – and over 40 times the $16 billion bill for Trump’s subsidies to US farmers. But even this sum is small compared to losses on US financial markets that can occur due to others of China’s economic actions. As Authers noted: ‘In the last five years, the event that scared the US market the most, by a wide margin, was the surprise Chinese yuan devaluation in 2015.’

The above figures are not given to propose any specific course of action for China. The author knows that numerous factors have to be taken into account both in trade negotiations with the US and in economic policy. Some of the key pieces of information for this are known only to those involved in the negotiations. Also domestic effects of policies, not only their impact on the US, have to be taken into account. But the data is given to indicate the extreme impact of actions by China in affecting US financial markets, and therefore the sensitivity of the Trump administration to this. The financial sums involved make clear why this impact it is much more rapid and greater than effects on farmers and consumers.

The real aim of Trump’s policy

This identification of the degree of pain which can be inflicted by China on US financial markets, and on the US economy, is crucial because Trump’s tariff policies cannot, indeed are not intended to, improve the situation of the US itself. Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith summarised the Trump administration’s real aim very accurately under the self-explanatory headline ‘The Grim Logic of Trump’s Trade War With China - Maximizing American prosperity probably isn’t the goal.’ Apart from comprador apologists for the US within China, noted by Wang Wen, this logic of Trump’s policy is by now well understood in China. But, nevertheless, it is worth quoting this Bloomberg analysis at length as it summarises very accurately from a US perspective the logic of the Trump administration:

‘So with… losses mounting, it looked like there was little reason to continue the trade war. Yet Trump is doubling down. Why?...

‘If Trump wants to slow China’s ascent as a superpower, a trade war might be an effective way to do it. If the harm to the US is modest and the costs for China are severe and lasting, Trump might conclude that the former are acceptable losses.’ On this logic: ‘Geopolitical primacy, not maximum prosperity for Americans’ was ‘the president’s true objective.’

In other words, as was already shown in the case of farm subsidies, the Trump administration quite accurately does not believe that tariffs and other forms of economic aggression against China aid US economic prosperity - on the contrary they cause economic pain. But it decides to inflict this pain on US citizens and companies in order to pursue neo-con policies trying to block China’s prosperity and national rejuvenation. But this policy requires that ‘the harm to the US is modest.‘ The problem is that the more tariffs are imposed , and above all if China retaliates, the greater the pain not only for US financial markets but for US consumers – that is US voters. As Authers noted: ‘Meanwhile, the US can still impose more tariffs, but the goods it has chosen to attack have been largely invisible to consumers. Any further tariffs will take it into consumer products where price rises will be visible and painful, and might even, again, act as a spur to raise [interest] rates.’ The effect on US financial markets, as already noted, can be far more severe than the direct effect of the tariffs.

Why win-win will not work with the Trump administration

Understanding the Trump’s administrations real aim shows not only why its goal is not to improve the economic position of the US economy or US citizens but simultaneously makes clear why its policies will not be stopped by appeals to reason or ‘win-win’. Forces in China claiming that the Trump administrations attacks will be stopped by ‘appeasement’, or by appeals for mercy, are presenting the reverse of the truth – such policies will lead to the Trump administration becoming more aggressive. This flows inevitably from the fact that the Trump administration’s policy is not to seek a ‘win-win’ for the US but to create a ‘lose-lose’ with the aim that the ‘lose’ in terms of economic pain for the US should be ‘modest’. This logic of the Trump administration’s position means that any weakening of China’s position, any alleviation of the pain inflicted on the US, will lead to the Trump administration becoming more aggressive, not less.

This makes clear while most countries seek a ‘win-win’ with China, and can therefore rightly be approached on this basis, and indeed this forms the basis of China’s foreign policy, this will not work with the Trump administration because it is not seeking a ‘win’ – it is merely seeking that the ‘lose’ for the US it knows will occur should not be sufficiently large to threaten Trump’s re-election.

It follows from this situation that the only thing that will deter the Trump administration, and force it off its path of attacks on China, is if the ‘lose’ for the US is bigger than it had anticipated – that is if the economic pain is too large to be bearable from the point of view of the interests of the Trump administration. From what has already been analysed, it is also clear that Trump’s measure of what is bearable is not the interests of the US people, but whether it affects the President’s chances of re-election. In summary, only if the economic pain suffered by the US is sufficiently severe that it endangers Trump’s re-election chances will the Trump administration desist from its attacks on China.

The only ‘win’ which the Trump administration takes into account is, therefore, if the ‘lose/pain’ of the confrontation with China is seen as endangering Trump’s re-election chances and the ‘win’ is then simply the lessening of that pain to a point where it is no longer seen as endangering Trump’s election campaign.

Confirmation of the forces acting on the Trump administration

This situation of the Trump administration which flows from its ‘lose-lose’ logic is fully confirmed even in the extremely short term by the chronology of President Trump’s own personal responses to events in US financial markets in announcing the increase in tariffs against China from 10% to 25%.

On 5 May Trump announced on twitter the raising of tariffs against China from 10% to 25%, there was no immediate announced countermeasure by China, and the S&P 500 US share index fell by only 0.5% on the following day.

In contrast on 13 May China announced counter tariffs and the S&P 500 fell by 2.4% in a single day – costing US shareholders $700 billion as Larry Summers noted.

For the rest of the following week the Trump administration attempted to claim that trade talks would be resuming, and that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin would probably be visiting Beijing in the near future - the S&P500 recovered by 1.7%.

Having achieved this recovery in US financial markets President Trump then initiated a new attack on China by requiring US companies to have permission from the US government to sell components and software to Huawei.

China then responded to this strongly on 23 May. As the Wall Street Journal noted: ‘ The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 286 points Thursday… after a Chinese official said the US should “adjust its wrong actions” if it would like to continue negotiations. The losses pulled the Dow industrials into the red for the week, continuing a dismal stretch as it hurtled toward its fifth straight weekly loss—which would be its longest such losing streak since 2011. ‘

In response to this fall on US financial markets President Trump then immediately softened his rhetoric by announcing at a press conference that there was a ‘good possibility’ that trade negotiations with China would get back on track and that issues with Huawei might be settled in that deal.

The short term pattern was therefore extremely clear. When there was no reaction from China, US financial markets did not fall, and Trump continued his aggression against China. When, on the contrary, China responded strongly, US financial markets fell and Trump attempted to present a picture he was lessening his attack on China.

In addition to these short-term movements analysed above the same process over a longer term also explains the dynamic of the ‘hardening’ and ‘softening’ of the Trump administration’s positions in the course of its negotiations with China.

During 2018, when the US economy was experiencing economic strengthening, during a normal upswing of a business cycle, and with a strong share market, Trump acted aggressively to China – launching the first set of anti-China tariffs and threatening to expand them to a wider range of goods and increase their rate to 25%.

Then in late 2018 the US economy began to slow, the Federal Reserve was raising interest rates, and the US share market fell. In response to this, at the beginning of 2019, Trump ‘softened’ his position – postponing the raising of US tariffs against China from 10% to 25%.

When the US economy appeared to recover in the first quarter of 2019, with the Federal Reserve suspending increases in interest rates, and the share market rose, Trump then announced new aggressive actions against China by raising tariffs from 10% to 25%.

This therefore clearly reflects the ‘lose-lose’ framework in which the Trump administration operates. When the ‘lose’ or ‘pain’ in US financial markets is not great the Trump administration proceeds to attack China. When, on the contrary, China’s reaction increases pain in US financial markets Trump acts more reasonably. That is, whenever the Trump administration feels in a stronger position it increases its attacks on China, whenever the Trump administration feels weaker due to the pain in US financial markets it acts more reasonably to China.

What is the Trump administration’s bottom line?

While the above clearly shows why the Trump administration will not respond to a ‘win-win’ framework, but only to economic pain, to avoid any misunderstanding it should be made clear that it does not lead to the conclusion that the US and China are locked in a ‘war to the death’. All the evidence is that President Trump is less interested in the long-term interests of the US than most Presidents. The precise economic pain which is unacceptable to his administration is that which would lead to endangering his re-election in 2020.

A relevant comparison which helps understand this dynamic is that is to a real war, not just a trade one, which the US lost – the Vietnam war. Vietnam’s tactics in this were skilful in that political impacts guided military goals. The two largest Vietnamese offensives of the war, the Tet Offensive in 1968 and the Easter Offensive in 1972, were launched in US presidential election years. Neither resulted in US military defeat but the political damage done to US presidents ensured Vietnam’s victory – Johnson was forced to abandon as hopeless any attempt to run for re-election as president after Tet, and Nixon was so convinced that his position as president would be threatened by the war that he started a progressive US military withdrawal after 1968 and decided on a total US withdrawal of US forces after the 1972 Easter Offensive. In short, the ‘bottom line’ for Vietnam’s victory against the US was not total military defeat of the US, which was never achieved, but inflicting such pain on US presidents that to safeguard their own position they were forced to withdraw. The military struggle in Vietnam was the means by which the decisive political victory in the US was achieved.

But the precondition for that US political defeat was the military struggle in Vietnam. If Vietnam had ceased inflicting pain on the US, both economic in terms of the gigantic cost of the war and in terms of losses of American forces, then the US instead of withdrawing would have increased its attacks on Vietnam. This can be clearly seen in the opposite case in which the US achieved a great victory – the destruction of the USSR. Gorbachev attempted to appease the US and beg for mercy. The US did not lessen but increased its attacks as a result - culminating in the catastrophic disintegration of the USSR itself, characterised by Putin as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century’. After this tremendous defeat of Russia this again did not lead to a lessening but to further intensification of attacks on Russia by the US – incorporating almost all of Eastern Europe and large parts of the former USSR into NATO and launching of attacks on Russia’s position in its strategically decisive neighbour of Ukraine.

The strategic conclusion of the present US attacks on China fully confirms the important speech by Xi Jinping emphasising that ‘The most important thing is to do our own thing’. China has not been seeking a confrontation with the US, a lose-lose. On the contrary China has been seeking a win-win. But once the Trump administration embarked on the course of a lose-lose confrontation then such a struggle can only be won by China relying on its own strength. Sufficient pain must be inflicted on the Trump administration that it decides it is better to abandon the lose-lose. And the criteria by which it will judge whether the pain in the ‘lose-lose’ is bearable is the effect on its chances of re-election.

Fortunately, the present struggle is an economic war and not a real war. The ‘small arms’ in that economic war are not rifles and revolvers but tariffs against farmers and the subsidies these require, its medium weapons are consumer boycotts, its heavy artillery are such issues as the impact on US financial markets analysed above. It is a measure of the gigantic historical progress made by China since 1949 under the People’s Republic that it now only has to deal with economic attacks by the Trump administration – for a century before that China had to deal with actual military invasions.

The sacrifices made by the heroes of the Long March were far greater than anything the people of China face today in the economic attacks by the Trump administration – a situation of the strengthening of China that was precisely due to those earlier heroes. But the comparisons made by Xi Jinping to the Long March are entirely apposite and not at all merely references to the CPC’s historical tradition.

The Kuomintang’s Fifth Encirclement Campaign, the origin of Long March, was designed by the KMT to destroy and annihilate the forces opposing it – why it is also called the ‘Fifth Extermination Campaign’. It was purposeless to have attempted to appease or beg for mercy from the KMT, which was determined to destroy the forces which later created the New China. Any appeasement, or appeal for mercy, would have been met by the KMT crushing and massacring the forces they opposed. Only resistance to the KMT created the possibility to later create the People’s Republic of China and lay the basis for China’s national rejuvenation.

Similarly, the Trump administration is determined to block China’s national rejuvenation. As already shown, there is no point to attempt to appease it or beg for mercy from it, this will merely lead to it becoming more aggressive. The ultimate aim of the neo-cons at present directing the Trump administration’s policies is to block China’s national rejuvenation and the final way to ensure that is to ensure that that China should suffer the same historical catastrophe as the USSR under Gorbachev.

Early last year I made a comparison to the polices of the US under the Trump administration as those of a tiger – there is no point to ask for mercy from a tiger, it will only attack you more, and it will also regard any sign of weakness as a further reason to increase its attack. Only if the tiger is scared will it stop its attack. Some people thought that comparison was very harsh. But the facts as shown above show it was totally accurate.

Who is the ‘elite’ of Chinese society?

Finally, as can be seen clearly from outside, it is particularly important that recent articles refer to the ‘social elite’ in China – perhaps also parts of the economic elite. Because sometimes there is a reference in China’s media to the ‘elite’ in an undifferentiated sense. Recent events show clearly why this is incorrect. Analysis in China shows it is ordinary people who have understood the aggressive actions of the Trump regime and supported the firm positions against this taken by President Xi Jinping and other CPC leaders.

It is some parts of the ‘social elite’ which have entirely misunderstood the situation and believed that appeasement and appeals for mercy would lead to the Trump administration lessening its attack on China. The latter forces are the exact opposite of an ‘intellectual elite’ – because to be an intellectual elite means to see the situation accurately and, as seen, they are entirely in error. It is the ordinary people of China who have shown they are the ‘intellectual elite’ in accurately understanding the Trump administration and supporting the positions taken by the CPC leadership. Those who wrongly analysed the situation may or may not be a social elite but they are an intellectual ‘non-elite’ – those who fail to see the situation accurately and have naïve illusions.

Conclusion

The analysis of the situation of the US economy and financial markets therefore fully confirms the analysis made by others of the situation in China.

It shows why the Trump administration cannot be dealt with on the basis of ‘win-win’.

It shows that within the ‘lose-lose’ framework of the Trump administration the situation on US financial markets is such a key point of pressure.

本文系观察者网独家稿件,未经授权,不得转载。


罗思义

罗思义

观察者网特约作者,人大重阳金融研究院高级研究员

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