Success is a relative thing in life, because success and failure depend on the goal and the standards. And sometimes that's why it is a success when something bad doesn't happen.
No new punitive tariffs as of December 15th; this time, Chinese laptops, toys, and clothing worth $ 160 billion would have been taxed in the US, it was announced. But now: no new tariffs, no new insults. Therefore no new uncertainty on the world's stock exchanges and, above all, no acute fear of the next escalation in the fragile relationship of the two most powerful countries in the world.
A success? Undoubtedly.
It leaked on Thursday, and it was confirmed on Friday: After 21 months of bitter dispute, the US and China ended "phase 1" of their negotiations for a trade agreement with an 86-page deal. "This is a brilliant deal for everyone. Thanks!" tweeted the American President.
The symbolism was important to Trump
For Donald Trump, it was the worst and most glorious week of his tenure. With a 23:17 majority, the House Justice Committee voted for impeachment and congressional impeachment proceedings, which is at least an embarrassment for a president, a moment of shame. And this week, the new trade agreement between the USA, Mexico and Canada (USMCA) became binding; and now that between China and the United States.
In addition to all the bad things that will not happen as a result, symbolism is particularly important: there is still political action in this world. Compromises are possible, even contracts. Nations can still play together (the EU, with the exception of Poland, just proved it with their climate agreement), and not every act is based on selfishness; and no, not all politics is destruction.
That was how it was with Trump on the big stage of world politics: he smashed what he could smash, the Paris climate agreement, the nuclear agreement with Iran, a disarmament agreement with Russia and the North American trade agreement NAFTA. And he imposed punitive tariffs on China and the EU, which made the World Trade Organization as powerless as it was senseless. Trump always promised new, better contracts, and he promised a China that would play by the rules of the West, respecting foreign investors and their data and patents, respecting exchange rates.
China is not asked for much
None of this happened in reality, there was always only the first step of disruption. Until it did happen. Twice. A little bit.
In reality, this treaty does not require much from China. Head of state Xi Jinping and his delegates had been stubborn and above all taciturn for over a year and read how Trump scolded, threatened, and gave way on Twitter; Above all, they had seen Trump postpone or cancel the punitive tariffs announced four times in twelve months when American farmers demonstrated or market prices slumped. The Chinese looked stoic and strong, the Americans impatient and fickle - in the end it was no longer a negotiation at eye level.