You would think, of course, that the point of a trade war is to eventually achieve some concrete policy outcome, and thus end. But this is Trump we’re talking about. From the beginning, it was rather unclear exactly what circumstances would qualify as “victory” in the trade conflict. The president has railed against lost U.S. jobs in manufacturing and tradable sectors, as well as our massive trade deficit with China. But the actual concrete demands that have emerged from Trump’s trade war relate to questions of intellectual property, China’s aforementioned technology transfer policies, and the general openness of China’s domestic market to foreign — i.e. American — businesses and investors. These are demands that, if met, would have considerable impact on U.S. corporate profits and payouts to wealthy American shareholders, but they would do little-to-nothing for blue collar jobs or wages.
The one big exception to this is the question of currency values: specifically, that China’s currency perpetually undercuts America’s on global exchange markets. Trump’s brought the issue up, but it’s flitted in and out of negotiations like a ghost. To the degree it sticks, it seems intended to protect the effectiveness of Trump’s tariffs, rather than as a goal in itself.
However, if we assume that, for Trump, perpetual trade war is a goal in and of itself, all of this makes a lot more sense.