Dating back to the Obama administration, the U.S. argument has been that China has a reputational challenge in the United States, where it more often is associated with problems for American people than solutions. Curbing the flow of fentanyl provides an opportunity for Beijing to show it is helping to solve problems for Americans, rather than be the source of them.
[The high-profile announcement of U.S. charges against Huawei] may end up raising the asking price of what the Chinese believe they need to secure from negotiations [with the United States over trade] in order to demonstrate to a domestic audience that they achieved an equitable and fair deal.
The Chinese leadership has promised for years that reform was around the bend and then you see things like President Xi’s speech where he emphasized the central role of the party... Members of the business community see the Trump administration as an opportunity for the U.S. to rattle the cage in Beijing.
[I]t is becoming increasingly difficult for [the United States and China] to reconcile their competing perspectives... Both countries are becoming entrenched in their narratives and having increasing difficulty finding common ground.
[In his remarks on the Trump administration's policy towards China at the Hudson Institute on October 4, 2018, Vice President Mike Pence] attempted to shift public scrutiny from Russia to China. ... He asserted that Russian efforts to interfere in America’s electoral process "pales in comparison to what China is doing."
Trump miscalculated that he could muscle China into making concessions to his trade demands ... He has not been able to budge [Chinese President] Xi Jinping, who has his own domestic politics to manage. The likelihood of Trump being able to extract concessions from Xi on trade issues is declining by the day. The more the narrative hardens in Beijing that Trump seeks to derail China’s rise, and not just solve trade irritants, the less political space there is for Xi to offer any concessions on Trump’s demands.
We experienced an anomalous period when Ma [Ying-jeou], Obama, and Xi were in office where relations between Taipei, Washington, and Beijing were largely constructive. Some of the muscle memory in Washington atrophied a bit. With the elections of Tsai [Ing-wen] and Trump, things have reverted back to the historical mean of increased sensitivity around Taiwan.
[Wang Qishan appears likely to] play a leading role in overseeing U.S.-China relations. ... Wang will operate at a more strategic level, in theory to help keep the relationship from going off of the rails. ... [However,] Trump really values being the person in the cockpit steering U.S.-China relations. ... So I think Wang Qishan’s impact on the relationship remains an open question.
If implemented, the steel and aluminum tariffs would represent one of the most lopsidedly self-destructive U.S. trade policy decisions in recent memory. ... The tariffs will hurt the U.S. economy, cost U.S. jobs, and create inflationary pressure. By doing harm to U.S. allies, this action also undermines America's ability to attract support for an effective, multilateral strategy for dealing with China's unfair trade practices. ... [Mr. Trump] has given China a gift.