Title

Why and Whither the US-China Trade War?: Not Realist ‘Traps’ but Political Geography 'Capture’ as Explanation

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of World Trade

Volume

55

Issue

2

Publisher

Kluwer Law International

Publication Date

1-1-2021

First Page

335

Last Page

358

Abstract

This article attempts to understand the profound political-economic, geographic, and historical force behind the Trump trade policy ‘revolution’ from the perspective of world-systems analysis. The trade war launched by the United States against China is essentially motivated by a profound political-economic and geographic logic: the US and China are competing to ‘capture’ core processes in the world-economy. The real imminent challenge facing the US-China relations and the rest of the world is actually not the so-called ‘Thucydides Trap’ (China challenges American global power), or ‘the Kindleberger Trap’ (America gives up global economic leadership while China is not ready to take over American role). The underlying economic driver of the trade war is the emergence of new core processes in the capitalist world-economy and the attempts by governments to ‘capture’ those processes within cities within their country. As the paired Kondratieff cycle and hegemonic cycle model tells us, economic depression accelerates hegemonic decline, and ushers in a period of restructuring and transition. Therefore, our forecast is that the US-China ‘trade war’ will not stop, and will be an ongoing component of the restructuring of the global geopolitical order in the coming years.

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