China's Tariff List Advertises Its Trade War Weakness

Alan Tonelson

Alan Tonelson

Security, Asia

President Donald Trump obviously overstated the case when he claimed that a trade war with China would be “easy to win.”

China's Tariff List Advertises Its Trade War Weakness

Unless Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his advisors are completely incompetent, there’s only one way to interpret Beijing’s list of U.S. products that will be slapped with retaliatory tariffs on June 1 if the trade war with the United States isn’t somehow deescalated pronto: China increasingly realizes that it’s playing a losing hand in the trade war, and its counter-moves have been made mainly for public consumption in China.

After all, the ostensible purpose of retaliation is inflicting enough pain on the target to change behavior. Therefore, you’d think that most of the new China tariffs would hit products that generate major earnings either for the entire U.S. economy or for key political constituencies (as with the previous import taxes on soybeans). But according to a compilation by, few of the goods scheduled by China to take the biggest (25 percent) tariff hits merit these definitions. Indeed, many aren’t even made in the United States anymore, or certainly not in meaningful quantities, much less exported to any measurable extent to China.

If you doubt that such items are found on China’s list, then check out the following American-made products that Quartz contends will get hit by those steepest Chinese tariffs, and the dollar value of their exports to the People’s Republic in 2018. They are ostensibly judged to contain the greatest economic and/or political shock potential.

Women’s swimsuits: $2,542.

Miscellaneous knitted or crocheted fabrics: $2,893.

Men and boys’ underwear: $229,455.

Men and boys’ wool/animal hair trousers: $49,629.

Men and boys’ overcoats: $4,900.

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