FOR months Chinese officials have stuck to the same script: China does not want a trade war, but will win if dragged into one. As hostilities turn more serious, this confident façade has taken a blow. Chinese equities have plunged into bear-market territory. The yuan had its biggest monthly fall against the dollar on record. Economic indicators have weakened. Even bombastic state-run media have turned introspective, counselling against arrogance.

All this, and the tit-for-tat trade battle is only just getting under way. On July 6th, after The Economist went to press, America was due to impose its first major set of tariffs on China: 25% duties on $34bn-worth of imports, notably machinery and electronic parts. China was set to retaliate with tariffs on goods worth the same amount, hitting products from soyabeans to sport-utility vehicles. Both countries have listed more tariffs to follow, on goods worth another $16bn. Both have also warned that they are willing to inflict much…Continue reading

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