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The Greater Danger of U.S.-China Trade Tensions


By Ali Wyne Policy Analyst   作者:阿里 · 怀恩  政策分析师


Many observers worry that trade tensions between the United States and China could escalate into a full-blown trade war, with ramifications not only for bilateral economic ties but also for the global economy. The long-term danger, however, is that if those tensions fester, they could begin to undercut the interdependence that has been so essential to keeping strategic competition between the two giants in check.

许多观察家担心,中美之间的贸易紧张局势可能升级为全面的贸易战,不仅对双边经济关系,而且对全球经济都会产生影响。 然而,长期的危险在于,如果这些紧张局势恶化,它们可能会开始削弱相互依存关系,而这种相互依存关系对遏制两大巨头之间的战略竞争至关重要。

Several members of U.S. President Donald Trump's economic team arrived in Beijing last week in hopes of easing trade tensions that have been brewing. The president announced early in April that the United States would enforce tariffs of 25 percent on over 1,300 Chinese exports, totaling $50 billion, unless China permits U.S. companies greater access to its markets and clamps down on the theft of those companies' intellectual property. China immediately retaliated by proposing tariffs of 25 percent on over 100 American exports, also equaling $50 billion. In turn, Trump instructed his trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, to consider imposing another $100 billion in tariffs on China.

美国总统唐纳德 · 特朗普经济团队的几位成员上周抵达北京,希望缓解正在酝酿的贸易紧张局势。 4 月初,特朗普总统宣布美国将对 1300 个中国出口商品征收 25% 的关税,总额达到 500 亿美元,并严厉打击盗窃这些公司知识产权的行为,除非中国允许美国公司进一步进入其市场。 中国立即采取报复措施,对 100 多个美国出口商品提出 25% 的关税,也相当于 500 亿美元。 反过来,特朗普指示他的贸易代表罗伯特 · 莱特泽考虑再对中国征收 1000 亿美元的关税。

The Trump administration has demanded that China cut its $337 billion trade surplus with Washington by roughly two-thirds over the next two years and not retaliate against any U.S. trade measures. Beijing has proposed that it could make some headway on that front by purchasing high-tech U.S. goods; the trouble is that Washington fears such goods would further fuel a Chinese military modernization that continues apace:Beijing's military expenditures increased from roughly $68 billion in 2007 to $228 billion last year, a 236 percent increase, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (XLSX). Still, Chinese officials are at least amenable to a conversation about the trade deficit. They are far less willing to consider the Trump administration's demand that it scale back its “Made in China 2025” initiative, which aims to make China a global leader in advanced manufacturing by enhancing its competitiveness in 10 industries, including aerospace, robotics, and biopharmaceuticals. Chinese officials say that for them to consider putting that undertaking into play, Washington would have to designate China as a market economy, eliminate restrictions on Chinese imports of high-tech goods, and drop a longstanding provision that bans Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE from purchasing U.S. parts.

特朗普政府要求中国在未来两年内将其与华盛顿的 3,370 亿美元贸易顺差削减三分之二左右,不要对美国的贸易措施进行报复。 北京方面提议,通过购买高科技的美国产品,可以在这方面取得一些进展。问题在于,华盛顿担心这样的商品会进一步加剧中国军事现代化进程。
根据斯德哥尔摩国际和平研究所(XLSX)的数据,中国军费开支从 2007 年的 680 亿美元增加到去年的 228 亿美元,增长了 236% 。 
不过,中国官员至少愿意就贸易逆差问题进行对话,但他们不太愿意考虑特朗普政府缩减 "中国制造 2025" 计划的要求,该计划旨在通过提升中国在包括航空航天、机器人和生物制药等 10 个行业的竞争力,使中国成为先进制造业的全球领导者。 


Given the inauspicious outcome of this first round of talks, few observers on either side expect subsequent rounds to yield major breakthroughs. Indeed, many in Washington are expressing growing concern about the potential impact of deteriorating trade relations on the U.S. economy. This past Thursday, over 1,100 economists—including 15 Nobel laureates—signed an open letter warning the Trump administration that “new tariffs in response to trade imbalances” would harm workers across the country, much like protectionist measures did in the 1930s. Today, of course, Washington depends far more on trade, supply chains, and globalization than it did over three-quarters of a century ago. A Brookings Institution analysis published last month estimated there are “some 2.1 million jobs in the 40 industries that produce products now slated for Chinese retaliation.” If Washington and Beijing proceed with reciprocal impositions of tariffs, an even more recent study concludes (PDF), nearly 134,000 Americans would lose their jobs, and American farmers' net income would fall by 6.7 percent.

上周四,超过 1100 名经济学家 (包括 15 位诺贝尔奖获得者) 签署了一封公开信,警告特朗普政府 , "针对贸易失衡的新关税" 将损害全国各地的工人,就像上世纪 30 年代保护主义措施一样。 当然,与四分之三世纪前相比,华盛顿在贸易、供应链和全球化方面的依赖程度远远超过 75 年前。
上月发布的一份布鲁金斯学会分析报告估计,在 40 个生产产品的行业,"约有 210 万个工作岗位被中国报复。" 如果华盛顿和北京继续相互征收关税,一项更近期的研究得出结论 (PDF) ,将近 134,000 美国人将失去他们的工作,美国农民的净收入将下降 6.7% 。

Over the long term, though, the main risk of indefinitely heightened trade tensions between the two countries is not commercial, but strategic:Robust economic interdependence has played a central role in preventing vigorous competition between the United States and China from devolving into outright hostility.


The ties that bind are thankfully thick and wide-ranging. The United States buys some 18 percent of Chinese goods exports, more than any other single country, and roughly two-thirds of China's $3.14 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves consist of dollar-denominated assets (PDF). On the flip side, China is America's top trading partner, the fastest-growing market for its exports and the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities.

令人欣慰的是,两国关系密切而广泛。 美国购买中国 18% 的商品出口,比任何其他单一国家都多,而且中国 3.14 万亿美元的外汇储备中大约三分之二是以美元计价的资产。 

But China has been making a concerted, successful push to reduce its dependence on trade:the share of total exports in its gross domestic product fell from over 30 percent in 2007 to under 20 percent last year; during that same time, the share of exports to the United States fell from approximately 9 percent of China's economy to just over 4 percent. If Beijing concludes that trade tensions with Washington are likely to stay, and perhaps even intensify, it may well take steps to accelerate that trend. America's current trade tensions with a range of other actors—Mexico and Canada (over the terms of a potential revision to the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement), Japan (over the extant trade imbalance) and the European Union (over the volume of U.S. steel and aluminum imports), in particular—afford it a compelling set of opportunities to diversify away from U.S. imports. Meanwhile, the progression of Beijing's flagship economic-cum-strategic project, the Belt and Road Initiative, will enable it to deepen its footprint and forge new relationships across a wide swath of Eurasia.

但是中国一直在协调自身,成功地减少对贸易的依赖:出口总额在国内生产总值中所占的份额从 2007 年的 30% 以上下降到去年的 20% 以下; 同时,对美国出口的份额从中国经济的 9% 降到了 4% 以下。 
美国目前与墨西哥和加拿大等一系列行为体之间的贸易紧张局势 (可能修订《北大西洋自由贸易协定》的条款)、日本 (现存贸易不平衡问题) 和欧盟(美国钢铁和铝进口量方面) ,为其提供了一系列令人信服的机会,使其能够实现多样化,摆脱美国的进口。 
与此同时,北京的旗舰级经济暨战略项目——"一带一路倡议" 的发展,将使其能够深化其足迹,并在欧亚大陆的广大地区建立新的关系。

China's economic heft vis-à-vis the United States has grown considerably since the global financial crisis. In 2008 its GDP was 31 percent as large as America's; in 2016, the last year for which the World Bank reports data, the ratio was 60 percent. Still, explains Ruan Zongze, executive vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, the Trump administration's mid-April decision to bar U.S. companies from selling components to ZTE highlights China's high level of dependence on the U.S. economy. One of the express objectives of Made in China 2025 is to unwind that symbiosis—an imperative that has taken on heightened urgency amid present trade tensions. Following last week's negotiations, economist Eswar Prasad observed that the U.S. delegation “seems to have had the objective of negotiating a surrender rather than a truce.”

2008 年,中国的国内生产总值是美国的 31% ; 在 2016 年,世界银行报告数据的最后一年,这个比例是 60% 。 
不过,中国国际问题研究所执行副主席袁宗泽(音译)解释道,特朗普政府在 4 月中旬决定禁止美国公司向中兴通讯销售零部件,这突显出中国对美国经济的高度依赖。 
“中国制造 2025” 的一个明确目标是解除这种共生关系。在当前的贸易紧张局势中,这种共生关系已经变得更为紧迫。 
经过上周的谈判,经济学家埃斯瓦尔 · 普拉萨指出,美国代表团 "似乎谈判目标是探讨投降而不是停战。"

Xi Jinping will not accept the former outcome. Instead, he will maneuver to ensure that China is increasingly capable of generating and sustaining growth on its own. The less Beijing depends on Washington economically, the more assertive it is likely to be in challenging U.S. foreign policy. Of course, the two countries had already been experiencing growing frictions on a number of issues before the recent wave of trade tensions:the status of Taiwan, territorial claims in the South China Sea, and internet governance, among others. But the United States and China had also cooperated to shore up macroeconomic stability, tackle climate change, and bring Iran to the negotiating table.

中国不会接受之前的结果。 相反,中国政府将采取措施,确保中国自身能够越来越有能力独立创造和维持增长。 

A Beijing less encumbered by economic interdependence might not only scale back such cooperation but also be more proactive in undermining U.S. national interests—whether by further undercutting multilateral sanctions on North Korea, strengthening its alignment with Russia, or more explicitly framing its approach to governance as a counterpoint to national-level political dysfunction in Washington. And while China has taken a complex attitude so far toward the postwar order—strengthening certain elements, weakening others, and developing parallel institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on the outside—it may embrace a more overtly revisionist posture if it is not as concerned about the extent of America's economic leverage.

尽管到目前为止,中国对战后秩序采取了一种复杂的态度ーー加强某些因素、削弱其它因素,以及在外部发展亚洲基础设施投资银行 (AIIB) 等平行机构,但如果中国不关心美国经济杠杆作用,它可能会采取更为公开的修正主义姿态。

If these shifts occur, they will do so gradually. It would take far more than the tit-for-tat retaliation observers presently fear to undo the interdependence the two countries have accrued in the more than 15 years since China acceded to the World Trade Organization. But leaders in Washington and Beijing should recognize that short-term trade tensions, left unchecked, could undermine a longstanding ballast of bilateral ties over the long term, with profound implications for global stability.

目前,中美两国在中国加入世界贸易组织以来的 15 年多时间里积累了相互依存的关系。 但美中两国领导人应该认识到,短期贸易紧张局势如果不加以制止,可能会破坏长期以来双边关系的长期压舱,并对全球稳定产生深远影响。

Ali Wyne is a policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.
This commentary originally appeared on The Diplomat on May 9, 2018. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.

阿里 · 怀恩 是非盈利性组织、无党派的兰德公司政策分析师,也是大西洋理事会布伦特 · 斯考克罗夫特国际安全中心的非常驻高级研究员。
这篇评论最初于 2018 年 5 月 9 日出现在《外交官》上,评论为兰德研究人员提供了一个平台,以传达基于他们的专业知识并经常在同行评议的研究和分析上的见解。

The RAND Corporation is a non-profit research organization dedicated to improving policy and decision-making through research and analysis. The RAND Corporation focuses on critical policy issues such as health, education, national security, international affairs, law and commerce, the environment, and so on. With a team of leading scholars from around the world, RAND has been expanding the boundaries of human knowledge for more than 60 years. As a non-partisan organization, the RAND Corporation is respected for its independent operation and independence from the political and commercial circles.

兰德公司是一家致力于通过研究与分析来改善政策和决策的非营利性研究机构。兰德公司专注研究至关重要的政策问题,例如卫生、教育、国家安全、国际事务、法律和商业、环境、等等。凭借由全球顶尖学者组成的研究团队,兰德公司在过往 60 多年致力拓展人类知识疆界。兰德公司作为一家无党派组织,以独立运营、不受政商两界左右而备受尊重。