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Trump Says China Is Intentionally Attacking His Supporters With Its Retaliatory Tariffs


As we've been talking about, China lost no time striking back against President Trump's move. Its additional $60 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods could kick in Monday, the same day U.S. tariffs take effect. NPR's Jim Zarroli joins us now to discuss how this battle between the world's two largest economies has escalated. Hey there, Jim.


CORNISH: So the speed of China's response makes it seem like they were very much prepared for this. How are officials there reacting?

ZARROLI: Yeah, I think they knew it was coming. You know, they're expressing dismay, anger. They say this won't resolve the trade differences between the countries - two countries. One government spokesman said today, we have been stressing that talks need to happen on the basis of parity, equality and good faith. What the U.S. has done shows no sincerity and good faith at all. You know, there have been these efforts to try to get both sides to the table in the Trump administration, but Chinese officials say this has just poisoned the atmosphere.

CORNISH: But this is far less than the 200 billion - right? - in import...


CORNISH: ...Tariffs that the U.S. is placing on Chinese goods. How come?

ZARROLI: Well, because China simply buys less from the United States than the United States buys from China. China buys about $130 billion worth of goods each year from the U.S. The U.S. buys about 500 billion from China. So if two countries, you know, keep targeting more and more of each other's imports, China is going to run out of products to target a lot sooner.

CORNISH: Does this mean the president is right that the U.S. has a lot of leverage over China?

ZARROLI: Yes, but China can do other things to put pressure on the U.S. It can really make life more difficult for American companies that manufacture there in different ways by raising the price of raw materials, for instance. There have been reports that it's taking longer to get cargo through Chinese ports than it once did.

Now, it's by no means clear how willing Beijing is to go forward with these kinds of punitive actions. They've been slowly trying to develop a reputation as a reliable business partner. China wants to be seen as, you know, a trustworthy and important player in the global economy. And if they start taking it out on individual businesses, it's going to scare a lot of companies away, which they don't want to do. But it is an option if things start to get really ugly.

CORNISH: What are some of the American products that China is imposing tariffs on?

ZARROLI: Well, one product that's being targeted is imports of liquefied natural gas. This is an area that the United States has seen as very promising. The U.S. has a lot of natural gas supplies, and it's hoping to be able to sell them. China is putting a tariff on them. Then there are a lot of other products like, you know, frozen vegetables, cocoa powder, certain kinds of aircraft, wheat, meat products. You know, China actually imports more from the United States I think than a lot of Americans probably think even though on balance it has a really big trade surplus with the United States.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Jim Zarroli. Jim, thank you.

ZARROLI: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.