What Trump’s Negotiating Style With North Korea Can Teach Us About China Trade Talks

President Donald Trump (R) and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
President Donald Trump (R) and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

After tumbling the Chinese stock market, President Donald Trump is continuing to aggravate negotiations between Washington and Beijing.

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“China has just informed us that they (Vice-Premier) are now coming to the U.S. to make a deal,” tweeted Trump on Wednesday morning. “We’ll see, but I am very happy with over $100 Billion a year in Tariffs filling U.S. coffers…great for U.S., not good for China!”

With a Chinese delegation arriving in the United States on Wednesday, the president’s attacks seem like an all-too familiar strategy: Escalate pressure until the moment discussions begin. We saw this last summer, as Trump continued to insult North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un—calling the dictator “little Rocket Man,” while threatening nuclear annihilation over Twitter.

Just weeks before the historic first summit with North Korea was set to occur in Singapore, Trump withdrew from the talks after North Korea’s vice foreign minister called Vice President Mike Pence “a dummy.”

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” wrote Trump in a letter.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he was “very perplexed” by the cancellation, although Trump later said the meeting could continue as originally scheduled.

Trump is deploying this negotiating style in the lead up to the China talks. What was supposed to be a series of subdued discussions to end the trade war has ballooned into an urgent referendum on China’s business violations. Over the weekend, Trump announced higher tariffs on Chinese exports (causing both the U.S. and Chinese stock markets to fall), while his former strategist Steve Bannon led a campaign alongside several of National Security Advisor John Bolton’s allies to rally business leaders against Beijing. As was the case with the Singapore Summit, there was, even on Tuesday, a giant question mark hanging over whether or not the talks would take place.

Another thing can be gleaned from Trump’s negotiations with Kim Jong-un: Results, or lack thereof. While the president spent months antagonizing North Korea, he left the first Singapore summit with very little to show for it. Despite an agreement signed between the leaders pledging to “build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” there are no signs that Kim Jong-un has moved to denuclearize his regime—in fact, CIA Director Gina Haspel and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats both warned Congress in January that North Korea was unlikely to give up its nuclear arsenal. The second summit with North Korea, held in Vietnam earlier this year, ended prematurely.

If history is any indicator, we can expect lots of bluster in the trade talks before a ceremonial gesture to make it look like Trump accomplished something no leader in history has ever done before. What Trump’s Negotiating Style With North Korea Can Teach Us About China Trade Talks