The American Public and Trump’s Trade War with China: Critical Junctures and Uncertainty in Liberal Intergovernmentalism
Holger Janusch, Hochschule des Bundes für öffenliche Verwaltung, Germany
Daniel Lorberg, Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Germany
Drawing on liberal intergovernmentalism, we analyze the causes and extent to which Trump’s trade policy marks a lasting turning point in US trade policy, particularly with respect to trade relations with China. Interestingly, the notion of critical junctures and turning point is rather an underdeveloped and less noticed concept in the field of international relations. Based on the assumptions of liberal intergovernmentalism, we define a critical juncture as a period of great confusion about the beliefs and perceptions of the public and societal groups that enables policymakers to question and abandon existing path dependencies. Trump’s presidency marks such a critical juncture for US trade policy toward China.
Confusion about trade among the American public contributed to Trump’s election victory and enabled a shift away from previous liberal trade policies. As a result, the Trump administration launched a trade war with China. The trade war itself, in turn, affected public opinion on trade and China’s image, led to a recalibration of national preferences and contributed to the Phase One deal with China. This interaction between the formation of national preferences, international bargaining, and policy outcomes challenges the strict sequence of stages in foreign policy stages as assumed in liberal intergovernmentalism. Although Trump’s trade war with China is not the beginning of a protectionist path, it has initiated a radical shift from a belief in free trade to managed trade. The result is an increasing decoupling and reproduction of enemy images that may trigger new path dependencies in US-China trade relations.
Presentation Date/Time: Sunday, December 11, 2022 (14:00)
Session: Session 3
Room: Fai Kham Room