China will lose trade war with the US, then things will get really nasty

Beijing might be the biggest loser, but both the American and Chinese economies will take a hit – especially when this war goes beyond trade

By Cary Huang

Ever Since David Ricardo, mainstream economists have believed restricting trade reduces consumer welfare and impedes productivity growth as it dampens economic activity, pushes up consumer inflation, distorts prices and creates inefficiencies, raises uncertainty, and erodes demand and investment.

With Washington’s punitive tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports and Beijing’s reciprocal tariffs on US$60 billion in American goods taking effect on Monday, on top of duties imposed on each other’s US$50 billion worth of imports, a full-blown trade war between the world’s largest and second-largest economies has begun, which will severely hit both countries and elsewhere, and thus slow global growth. However, China will suffer much more pain than the United States because of its over-reliance on trade and on core US technology in the supply chain, among other things.

First, China will not inflict as much pain on its rival as it is unable to match US tariffs on a dollar-for-dollar basis, because it exports far more to, than it imports from, the US. Last year, China exported more than US$500 billion worth of goods to the US. In contrast, the US sold just US$130 billion worth of goods to China.