Will Trump end the trade war?
Tom Fowdy
Editor's note: Tom Fowdy is a UK-based political analyst. The article reflects the author's views, and not necessarily those of CGTN.
For the past few days, American media have been reporting that the trade war between China and the United States, promised, triggered and pursued by Donald Trump, is nearing a formal end.
According to inside sources, a China-U.S. agreement may be sealed as early as March 22. American negotiators having been reportedly satisfied at a list of concessions offered by Beijing during talks, although apparently far from the demands which Washington wished for.
But right now, some are a bit anxious. Only last week did Trump walk out on signing an agreement with Kim Jong Un at his summit in Hanoi, despite positive and optimistic rhetoric in the run-up to the meeting.
This will lead many people to question, might Trump scrap a potential deal with China if he and his cabinet decide it is not good enough? 
For a such an unpredictable president, a definitive answer is difficult for this question.
However, I think in sharp contrast to the affairs with Pyongyang, such an outcome continues to be unlikely because the political and economic stakes of failure are too simply high, the situations are not comparable.
The president's own ambitions concerning China and the wider appetite for confrontation within the Republican Party appear almost harmonious at first glance, but they are more discrete than they appear, with the president ultimately prioritizing his electoral commitments to workers and farmers whom he relies on for votes. 
Aware of the political and economic price that comes by prolonging the conflict, Trump is now eyeing a serious agreement from China.
If he jettisons a deal with Beijing, the delight of foreign policy hawks cannot prevent his political undoing.
Since the Trump administration come to office in 2017, it has pursued a number of aggressive stances on China which has saw relations between the two countries sink to a 40-year low.
Although it is easy to link these policy shifts to Trump's abrasive campaign rhetoric against Beijing in 2016, the shift in practice is not attributable to him alone.
President Trump meets with Chinese vice premier in Oval Office.  /VCG Photo

President Trump meets with Chinese vice premier in Oval Office.  /VCG Photo

Republicans, who are generally known for advocating more belligerent and neoconservative foreign policies, have long sought to expound a tougher stance on Beijing owing to changes in the international balance of power.
Upon regaining control of the White House, numerous advisers, members of Congress and cabinet members used this opportunity to steer the administration's foreign policy towards China in assertive ways.
Trump's promised trade war has coincided with this shift, and subsequently been justified by it. But it is not, as some may assume, dependent upon it.
Trump is a transactional individual with a mode of thought which does not conform to conventional patterns of foreign policy thinking, concern for strategic or value orientated sentiments.
He operates largely on a form of explicit self-interested realism, making his priorities what he professes to be America's core interests, as well as his own standing and political goals, in which he is not scared to challenge political etiquette when it suits him.
When his own immediate ambitions come before the established "rules" of American politics, he is happy to disregard them. There is a reason why prior to becoming president, many Republicans actually opposed him.
Given this, up to now the trade war has been harmonious to the desires of more hawkish American foreign policymakers so far, but the end goals are otherwise divergent. 
Many hoped the war would be prolonged for the means of squeezing China, containing its economic rise and serving America's geopolitical aspirations.
Indeed, there are many other simultaneous policies with the aim of doing directly so. 
But Trump is largely disinterested in those.
He eyes one thing: that being to attract meaningful trade and economic concessions from Beijing of which he can claim he is restoring American jobs, manufacturing and prosperity, of which he can obtain votes in the run up to 2020. 
Those who envision the trade war exclusively in foreign policy terms seem to omit the fact that voters don't vote on foreign policy.
You cannot run a re-election campaign on "containing China," especially not if there is clear evidence the trade war is hurting America's economy and reducing investment into the country. 
It is a cold truth that average Americans just don't vote on "U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific," they vote on their livelihoods. 
Trump observes this, some of his foreign policy advisers and cabinet members seemingly don't. 
U.S. President Donald Trump /VCG Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump /VCG Photo

He can politically afford to prolong negotiations with a small player such as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) whereby some progress has been made, but he cannot ignore a trade conflict which he started which can pose direct disruption. 
It is very telling on this ground why he indefinitely suspended the extension of tariffs.
Given this, it is likely Trump will move to secure a deal and end the trade war.
This will allow him to consolidate a broader and more politically beneficial claim that he is negotiating America's trade position in the world and making the country great again, as he did with the North American Free Trade Agreement.
If he clenches this and eliminates tariffs, he knows that markets will respond positively, allowing him to take control of a narrative in the run up to 2020.
Due to the influence of more hawkish voices, it is likely that other assertive policies against Beijing will continue in tandem, but with the more influential issue of trade, Trump will put his domestic political priorities and standing first.
(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com.)