The ongoing trade scuffle that is warming up between the U.S. and China has taken an intriguing turn of late. Trump has (insightfully) said that this trade war will be "good and easy to win", as he seeks to punish China for intellectual property violations.
Apparently ignoring this penetrating and well-thought through a statement, China's retaliation against Trump's tariffs have been highly targeted — and are designed specifically to hit Trump supporters where it hurts.
China buys 65 percent of U.S. soy exports, which have been hit with 25 percent punitive import duties. However as the Washington Post recently noted, this isn't the only reason that soy exports have been targeted.
The South China Morning Post observes that U.S. soy is grown in the Republican heartland and that tariffs will "hit farmers across red-state America" hard, thus exerting pressure on voters who form Trump's political base. Soybean growing areas voted for Trump by a margin of 12 percent, effectively putting him in power.
The speaker of Congress Paul Ryan represents a district in the state of Wisconsin, a state in which he looms large as a political figure. Coincidentally, ginseng is exported in huge quantities from the U.S. into China, and 85 percent of that ginseng is grown in Ryan's home state. Not coincidentally, ginseng has suddenly been specifically targeted for special tariffs by the Chinese, which has Wisconsin farmers in a panic.
The Republican leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky, home to large bourbon and tobacco industries. So it should come as no surprise to note that China has levied 25 percent import tariffs on both these products.
As China tightens the financial screws on Trump's political base, it will be interesting to see who blinks first. The U.S. mid-term congressional elections are only a few months away, and if the Republicans lose their majorities in the Senate and Congress, Trump could be possible face impeachment at the hands of angry Democrats. For Republicans in these "red states" and for Trump, the question will be what is more important.
As Bill Clinton's team famously observed in what has now passed into cliché, politics often isn't about politics, it's about "the economy, stupid". China may be giving the Republican leadership a lesson in Politics 101, and demonstrating that this is 100 percent true.