China Strikes Back at Trump’s Tariffs, but Its Consumers Worry

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“Global soybean supply and demand is tightly balanced right now,” said Gong Yanhai, a senior analyst in Shanghai with Huatai Asset Management. Taxing American soy, Mr. Gong said, also means that China will pay more to buy beans from its biggest supplier, Brazil, where premiums per bushel have already risen in anticipation of the tariffs.

Around China, the trade war is being watched with a mix of worry, ire at the United States — and frank curiosity about it all.

On the social media platform Weibo, word went around on Friday of a ship speeding toward China to beat the tariffs on its precious cargo: American soybeans. News of the vessel’s race against the clock was reported earlier by Bloomberg.

The trade war could have equally important effects on the $2 trillion worth of goods that the country sells to the rest of the world, said Hua Min, an economist at Fudan University in Shanghai. A decade ago, in the wake of the global financial crisis, China’s exports cratered, and consumers and businesses at home could not spend enough to keep factories humming.

“The driving force of the Chinese economy is mainly exports,” Mr. Hua said. “If there are no exports, there will be manufacturing overcapacity. Manufacturing overcapacity will lead to debt. And debt will affect companies’ balance sheets. Then it will be 2008 all over again.”

At a Tesla dealership in downtown Shanghai on Friday, there was not much love for the idea of paying even more for the premium electric vehicles.

“The trade war won’t last forever,” said Charlie Lin, 25, who works in real estate and was looking at cars. “China and the U.S. definitely have ways of resolving it. After all, an endless fight would be bad for both countries. These are just temporary measures.”

Still, “China must accept this challenge,” Mr. Lin said. “We have enough stamina to fight back. We will find out what America is made of.”

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