The US-China Steak Pact: Not as Meaty as it Looks

Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping ate steaks and agreed to put the "trade war" on hold: Trump will postpone his plan to increase tariffs on about $200 billion of Chinese goods, and Beijing will push its companies to buy more American products.

Any easing of tensions between the world's two largest economies is good news, but it's tough to see this truce lasting for long. The Trump administration has left a window of just 90 days for the two sides to reach a comprehensive deal addressing Washington's deeper grievances: Beijing's policy of heavily supporting its own firms while forcing foreign ones to surrender advanced technology in order to gain access to the Chinese market. Without a deal like that, Trump will be back to raising tariffs, and we'll be back on a (trade) war footing.

Here's the problem: From Beijing's perspective, changing that policy is a non-starter. China sees technological dominance as the key to 21st century superpower status, and it views external attempts to modify its state-centric economic approach as a neo-imperialist bid to undercut China's rightful destiny as a global power. This is not something that will be resolved in three months' time. Chill out for now, but buckle up for later.

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Last weekend, world leaders, security experts, and business executives flocked to the Hotel Bayrischer Hof in Munich for the 55th annual Munich Security Conference. What's the Munich Security Conference? Think of it a bit like Davos, but with policymakers in dark suits rather than billionaires in Gore-Tex.

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Speaking of trans-Atlantic rifts, we've written previously about the US pushback against Huawei, arguably the world's most geopolitically significant technology company. The Trump administration has been trying to convinceits European allies to ban the Chinese tech giant from their next-generation 5G information networks, citing national security risks. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even warned of consequences for countries that don't toe Washington's line on the issue.

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Over the past 20 years, hundreds of millions of people in China have been pulled out of poverty by their country's staggering economic growth. Beijing today is a rising power on the global stage. That's all pretty great, and yet the country still ranks beneath war-torn Libya and perpetually melancholy Russia in the United Nations World Happiness Report. This week's Economist hazards a guess about what really makes people smile or scowl, but here's how China stacks up for joy against other countries.