For now the truce opens an opportunity for Beijing to kick down the road concessions that it doesn’t want to make. Whether those hard issues ever get resolved is a question. The Chinese leadership feels that time is on its side, believing President Trump is under pressure to make compromises as part of his re-election bid next year. But by trying to drag out the negotiations, Beijing also risks the prospect that Mr. Trump may harden his position again to show he is being tough on China—or that it may have to start over with a new Democratic president.
“If you’re China, you’re pretty happy with the outcome,” Arthur R. Kroeber, founder of Beijing-based consultancy Gavekal Dragonomics, said of the latest trade talks. “China’s negotiation position has always been, the longer you can extend the talks the better.” …
People with knowledge of China’s strategy say Beijing officials still insist that agriculture purchases must align with the real needs of Chinese companies, including state-owned enterprises, and comply with World Trade Organization standards which limit market-distorting practices. Chinese negotiators have said China shouldn’t be forced to divert purchases from other countries such as Brazil to meet the U.S. request.
Beijing’s position leaves open the possibility for disagreement between the two sides over the size and timing of Chinese purchases, and whether the $50 billion number is an aspiration or a firm target. China’s state media and Ministry of Commerce made no comments on agricultural purchase commitments after the meetings.