Why the U.S. and China Can’t Make a Deal

Optimism that the U.S. and China can reach a trade deal is rising, with another round of intensive negotiations in Washington this week. What buoyant investors are ignoring, however, is that the talks have become a test of strength between the world’s two great powers — or, more accurately, a test of how accurate each nation’s sense of its own strength is.

The inconvenient fact is that neither country possesses the power to impose its will on the other. The U.S. is not on its own capable of compelling Chinese leaders to do its bidding, nor is China strong enough to shun the Western world. Until they face up to that reality, they’ll never be able to reach a lasting accommodation.

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