Even before America and China’s tit-for-tat trade war verged upon a coronavirus-infected Cold War, Beijing routinely accused Washington of keeping China down.
China gained membership in and aid from Bretton Woods institutions, and, most crucially, China’s road to accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001 was paved by Uncle Sam.
China’s World Trade Organization accession in 2001 was preceded by the Carter administration’s granting of most-favored-nation status to China in 1980, catapulting it to become the world’s largest trading nation by 2012.
But supposedly robust features of the liberal order such as the World Trade Oorganization’s dispute settlement system consistently failed to change unfair, nonreciprocal Chinese trade practices, thereby exacerbating the hollowing out of rustbelt America.
Thus the Trump administration’s trade war against China has been but simply a culmination of decades’ worth of American grievances, not an out-of-the-blue, drastic policy shift launched by a uniquely angry, trade deficit-obsessed president.