Since assuming the presidency, Donald Trump has dragged age-old protectionism out of the past. He has imposed new tariffs, blocked international mergers, and manipulated global trade—particularly U.S. trade with China. The two nations have become so enmeshed in this standoff, with China instituting tariffs and halting U.S. mergers of its own, that it has become common to suggest that the two nations have plunged into a full-scale “trade war.”
In such times, it’s helpful to remember that a trade war isn’t actual war. It is, at most, a rudimentary economic policy directed at a foreign government and its people. Nevertheless, President Trump has consistently explained his newfound protectionism—especially vis-à-vis China—on national-security grounds.