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How Badly is Trump’s Trade War Hurting China?

I know it’s considered bad manners to bring data into an economic debate, but after seeing numerous stories telling us how bad China’s economy has been hit by Trump’s tariffs (e.g. this NYT piece), I thought it was worth looking at the numbers. In the first eight months of 2018, China’s exports to the US were $344.7 billion. This is up by $25.4 billion from $319.3 billion in the first eight months of 2017.

I’m afraid I have a hard time seeing how China’s economy could be hurt all that much from tariffs that still did not prevent its exports from rising year-over-year. I’m sure there have been some businesses and specific industries that have been hurt, but I have a hard time seeing how a $14 trillion economy ($25 trillion in purchasing power parity terms) could be sunk by reducing its exports to the US by $60 or even $100 billion. And, since we are constantly told that much of the value of these exports actually comes from third countries like Japan or South Korea, the impact would be even less.

Of course, if China’s exports are still rising in spite of Trump’s trade war, it is even harder to understand how it could be sinking its economy.

This piece originally appeared on Dean Baker’s blog, Beat the Press.

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Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

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