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US-China trade relations: back to a Japanese future?

There are compelling parallels between Washington’s conflict with Beijing and its battles with Tokyo 30 years ago

By Guy de Jonquières  

Photo: Imaginechina/SIPA USA/PA Images

In July 1987 a group of Congressmen stood on the steps of the US Capitol and took turns demolishing a Toshiba portable radio with a sledgehammer, in a much-publicised gesture of furious frustration at what they considered to be Japan’s unfair competitive practices and its large and its stubborn bilateral trade surplus.

Like China today, Japan then was the target of a US trade offensive aimed at thwarting its inroads into American markets and at removing its barriers to US exports. And like president Donald…

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