President Trump is increasingly acting based on his own intuition and analysis and not the advice of aides in the increasingly fraught trade war with China, five people briefed on the actions said, shattering a more cautious process that had yielded few positive results so far.
The Treasury Department’s formal announcement that it had labeled China a “currency manipulator” came six hours after President Trump did it himself, on social media, the latest example of how Trump is determining his own next steps. The people describing the White House process spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
They said White House officials were now expecting a long, drawn-out battle with Chinese leaders, even though Trump is acutely tuned in to stock market fluctuations. But Trump is convinced that the Chinese economy is suffering more than the U.S. economy from the conflict. And he has felt validated that his hardball threats in other circumstances, including a recent tangle with Mexico over border security, seemed to get at least some results, even if they scared investors in the short term, said the people familiar with the matter…
“We’re learning that maybe China has a higher pain threshold than we thought here,” said Stephen Moore, who was an economic adviser to Trump during the 2016 election and remains close to the White House. “They don’t seem to care that this is having extreme negative effects on their economy. It’s kind of a mutually assured destruction game right now.”