Hard truths that China and US must face up to

I've been in Tokyo and Hong Kong this week, and if I were to distil what echoed in all my conversations, it would sound something like this: From Chinese business and government types, some real anxiety - "Can you please tell me what is President Donald Trump's bottom line in this trade war? Is this about rebalancing trade or containing China's rise?" - combined with some real bravado - "You realise that you Americans are too late? We're too big to be pushed around any more. You should have done this a decade ago."

From the Japanese it was gratitude - "Thank God for Donald Trump. Finally we have a US president who understands what a threat China is!" - combined with real anxiety - "Please, please be careful. Don't go too far with Beijing and break the global trading system."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2018, with the headline 'Hard truths that China and US must face up to'. Print Edition | Subscribe