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For most observers of the unfolding trade war between the United States and China, the casus belli is the convergence of China's unfair trade practices with U.S. President Donald Trump's protectionist credo.When allies engage in such disputes – as the U.S. and Japan did in the late 1980s – it is generally safe to assume that the real issue is economic. But when they happen between strategic rivals – such as the U.S. and China today – there is likely to be more to the story.All of this has served to convince the U.S. that its China engagement policy has utterly failed.While China might be able – with substantial concessions and a healthy dose of luck – to avoid a devastating trade war in the short term, the long-term trajectory of U.S.-China relations is almost certain to be characterized by escalating strategic conflict, and potentially even a full-blown cold war.For the U.S., allowing China continued access to America's market and technology would be tantamount to handing it the tools to beat the U.S. economically – and then geopolitically.
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