The U.S.-China Relationship Is a Tangled Mess

This was supposed to be the week U.S.-China trade talks got back on track and the two sides found a way to avoid sending more unsettling signals to financial markets and a global economy that looks increasingly fragile.

But that didn’t take long to change. If the state of relations between the world’s two largest economies was a tangled mess before the latest round of Chinese negotiations get underway Thursday and Friday, the tangle has only gotten worse -- and the apparent olive branch extended this week of Chinese commodity purchases that Beijing has been offering all along does little to alter that.

The move on Monday to blacklist Chinese tech giants like video surveillance company Hikvision and the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup, SenseTime, took the Trump administration’s economic wars against China in a new direction.

Not only did the U.S. provocatively invoke its right to address human rights violations “within China,” as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did, it also targeted a new swathe of Chinese technology champions. The stated reason was the companies’ involvement in China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities in the region of Xinjiang, but the move also strikes a blow against sectors like AI where China is increasingly dominant. Adding to the frictions, the U.S. is slapping visa bans on Chinese officials linked to the abuses in Xinjiang.
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