LONDON • The world will soon witness a historic test of wills between China and the United States, two superpowers whose leaders see themselves as supreme. In the immediate sense, it will be a battle over trade. But also at stake is the strategic leadership of East Asia and, eventually, the international order. As things stand, China holds a stronger position than many people realise. The question is whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will feel confident or brazen enough to want to prove it.
The test of wills was hardly China's choice; but nor does it come as a surprise. US President Donald Trump's recently announced import tariffs on steel, aluminium and other Chinese-made goods are in keeping with his brand of economic nationalism. And his decision to accept North Korea's invitation to hold bilateral talks on its nuclear programme reflects the same "bring it on" attitude that he applied to the North's earlier threats of war.