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US-China trade war changed: Total Chinese exports by -1.6% and Chinese imports by -1.4%. It changed total US exports by about -1.5% and US imports by -1.3% (data for 11months of 2019 v 2018)

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Short calculation below shows that impact of trade war on US-China bilateral trade is negligent (less than -1.6%).

Trade war is not important.


Per Sunday, December 8, 2019 Chinese Customs Office data release:

Data are for 11 months of 2019 vs 11 months of 2018 (January-November) in billion of CNY:

China exports to US Jan-Nov 2019: CNY 2,639 billion change by -8.40% from Jan-Nov 2018 period (when it was CNY 2,881 billion).

China exports to US change: CNY -242 billion. Total exports of China 1-11.2019 were: CNY 15,555 billion.  CNY -242 billion is -1.56% of total.

China imports from US Jan-Nov 2019: CNY 763 billion change by -19.50% from Jan-Nov 2018 period (when it was CNY 948 billion).

China imports from US change: CNY -185 billion. Total imports of China 1-11.2019 were: CNY 12,950 billion.  CNY -185 billion is -1.43% of total.

US imports from China in Jan-Nov 2019 changed by about -242 billion CNY that is -35 billion USD, that is about -1.3% of total US imports (-1.3%=-35/2600)

US exports to China in Jan-Nov 2019 changed by about -185 billion CNY that is -26 billion US, that is about -1.6% of total US exports (-1.6%=-26/1600)


- All data are in CNY as it eliminates FX differences impact. ( Data in USD will be nearly the same: change of total exports by about -1.62% and total imports by about -1.44%)

- I assumed that without trade war bilateral exports and imports in 2019 will be the same in 2018.

- I estimated data for November 2019 for US as not published yet,

- I assumed change of exports and imports on the basis of Chinese data, US data could be different. But even the change in the magnitude of 50 bilion USD does not change the whole picture.

Ask yourself the question why trade war is all over the news ?

What purpose it serves for United States and what purpose it serves for China ?


Edited by Marcin
added data for United States
  • Upvote 1

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If trade war is not important what is the US motivation and China motivation to talk loud and often that it is otherwise ? And in consequence mislead US society.

US motivation:

-          diversion of focus of US society. This is bipartisan goal. It is convenient to present China as major and I dare to say the most important cause of US economic hurdles. If the source of US hardships lies not in the US but in Chinese behavior, nothing should be done to try to solve domestic problems. Solving problems causes significant temporary difficulties and this is not good for winning the next election. US election circles are insanely short (2 years) so it is always the time before the next election.

-          Personal Trump’s goal of winning 2020 Presidential election. Trump is not flooding us with instant tweeting about trade war, winning the trade war, China being on the verge of collapse,  because he has nothing better to do. This is calculated strategy again to focus US society on conflict with China and imprint belief that US is winning through repeating for 1000 times the message about winning. This goal is slightly different from bipartisan focus of attention. Because Donal Trump is the Tribune of People and the first President that stopped China from “economically raping US economy”, the more important trade war, the more US is “winning”, the higher are the Trump achievements.

Side note: In my opinion US politicians and especially Trump Administration are aware of the fact that technology war and containing the modernization and development of China is the most important aspect of US-China hegemony conflict. Steve Bannon publicly states this. But it is difficult so sell complex technology issues to US society.

Message: We have trade deficit with China and this is BAD is easier (even if faulty).

I admit that US finally but slowly is applying the correct strategy of China containment by US supply embargo on major Chinese technology companies. But it is too little, too late. And China is using very efficient means to make this strategy difficult to apply: a) by tying foreign companies with China through established and complex interdependencies of supply chains b) through economic power of its vast consumer market.


Motivation of China:

To buy the commodity that is currently the most important for China and the commodity that only US can sell. This commodity is TIME. The major and only weakness of China is technological backwardness in comparison to United States. China needs a few years to close the gaps in most areas, but over 10 years in the crucial ones like integrated circuits. So China has to postpone intensification of US technology sanctions. When trade negotiations are still conducted, US authorities will limit technology embargo.

Tactics from the beginning is to make an impresion that trade war is very important for China by engaging Liu He whom Xi Jinping trusts and even Xi Jinping himself. Strong Chinese delegations are often visiting the United States and apart from Secretary/Minister level negotiations are also meeting Trump. Similarly US delegations are often traveling to China and have meetings with Xi Jinping. If the most powerful and second most powerful persons on the globe are frequently engaged in the issue the impression is that it must be important. None of the world problems have such strong staffing as US –China trade war.

Also since the beginning it is pretty obvious for both US and Chinese authorites that no substantial deal can ever be signed. So why Trump Administration is doing this ? Look at US motivation.

China has to extend negotiations and postpone them for as long as possible. It is December 2019. China already bought May 2018-December 2019 period: it is 1 year and 8 months: 20 months. And the price is really low: About 40 billion USD direct impact on shrinking exports to US and some impact of price pressure for Chinese suppliers: make it 5% of 500 billion, it is 25 billion. Impact on Chinese GDP: half of these 40 billion as they are partially made from foreign components and also transshipping through Vietnam, Taiwan and South Korea is thriving. Add 10 billion of losses due to US embargoes. So in total 50 billion US dollars. So 2.5 billion USD per month.

Tariffs are rising since 15 December, so maybe costs of buying next months till February 2021 (the next 14 months) will rise to 5 billion USD per month. Still very cheap.

In total China will certainly buy 34 months of precious TIME, nearly 3 years.


I do not know how much time China still needs ? In 8 years it will be the largest economy, technologically relatively safe and in vital areas Chinese military similar in strength to US military. The vital interest of China is to keep hegemony war low profile for as long as possible, to limit costs and effort that could be spent more productively for development of the country.


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@Rasmus Jorgensen you like detailed analyses so this one will be of interest for your.

@Tom Kirkman I wonder what is your opinion about the argumentation I used from the point of view of US citizen ?

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Interesting points Marcin.

From what I can see, U.S. trade imbalance with China is being both rebalanced and decoupled - China needs trade with China more than U.S. needs trade with China.

As part and parcel of this trade rebalancing by U.S., the U.S. economy is booming and U.S. unemployment is at record low levels - American jobs that were outsourced by U.S. multinationals to overseas countries such as China are starting to come back to the U.S. 

IP theft from U.S. - based multinationals is apparently being curtailed.

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