North Korea dominated the headlines this week, with the meeting in Beijing raising all sorts of questions about the relationships and possibilities. It’s hard to draw any conclusions beyond saying the meetings probably short-circuited the prospects of a two-way conversation between Washington and Pyongyang, with China apparently having re-inserted itself into the process. Will Trump actually meet with the North Korean leader, and how would that play out?
Also worth noting is the direct North-South meeting scheduled for April 27, the first in a decade. Is there any chance the two Koreas could one day work out a deal on their own? That depends, we guess, on whether or not Kim feels he is safe with his current underwriter, and also whether North Korea stands a chance of modernizing its economy significantly beyond its current dire state. Would China let it? This is all of huge relevance to the Chinese economy because of the explosive potential of the situation.
There are mixed signals, meanwhile, on the potential for a US-China trade war, but it certainly appears as though the strategic elite in Washington has made up its mind that the previous approach of inclusion and appeasement has not worked. In the end, the impact of a serious confrontation could be more important psychologically than practically. If that happens, the place where it may have its most obvious manifestation is China’s property market. All this depends on how things go, and it’s still too early to say.
The problem at the heart of the trade contretemps is the systemic disconnect, which Western leaders managed to ignore for decades. That disconnect is also becoming ever more clearly defined given the ways in which China is changing. And changing it definitely is. This is an inflection point.
All the best for Qingming. Sweep those graves.
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