U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs did hurt U.S. consumers, and while that is indeed an economic cost of the deal, it is also a credibility benefit. It shows that the U.S. is in fact willing to incur some pain to oppose China, contrary to the common Chinese view that Americans are “soft.” U.S. credibility has also been improved among its allies and some neutral nations.

A case in point: Currently the U.S. is working hard to keep Huawei equipment out of the forthcoming 5G networks in many countries. (Imagine letting the KGB run the American phone network in say 1980, and you can see what is at stake here.) For that campaign to succeed, even partially, the U.S. needs some credible threats of punishment, such as withholding intelligence or even defense protection from allies. The course of the trade war has made those threats more plausible. If you are Germany, and you see that the U.S. has been willing to confront the economic and military power of China directly, you will think twice about letting Huawei into your network.

A third set of possible benefits relates to the internal power dynamics in the Chinese Communist Party.