On Tuesday, Donald Trump and his administration announced tariffs of 30 percent on the import of washing machines and solar panels from China.
This development had been expected for some time, since many in the United States had been constantly reminding Trump of his campaign promises. Until now, however, he had limited himself to more or less veiled threats against China, the real bugbear of the American president on the campaign trail. His constant droning about China had struck an ominous note in Beijing, but the Chinese officials had started to believe they had staved off the danger, on account of the Korean crisis.
The tariffs will hit not only China, but also South Korea, which is, in theory, an ally of Washington. (And, as we will see, Mexico has reasons to complain as well.) The Koreans are more than mere allies, in fact; if Tokyo is constantly taken for granted as a friends of the U.S. in Asia, Seoul was always the president’s trump card (as the expression goes). Despite the liberal-democratic presidency of Moon Jae-in, South Korea was still, as ever, a bulwark against China, important both as a client in purchasing weapons and as an economic partner. We should not forget, after all, that Trump’s first act regarding Asia was the sinking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty, an economic free trade agreement that would have excluded none other than Beijing.