At a G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, this week, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are set to have a one-on-one meeting, and hopes are high that a good conversation will restart stalled trade negotiations and convince the White House to hold off on further tariffs against China.
For Alfred LaSpina, the outcome may not matter very much, though. When LaSpina, the new vice president of eLumigen, based in Troy, Michigan, began thinking about a supply chain for the startup’s industrial lighting products, China automatically came to mind: LaSpina—an old friend of mine—has had experience with manufacturing in China before, and knew he could find reliable, experienced suppliers there. Then came Trump’s unexpected tariff hike on Chinese imports in May. LaSpina and his colleagues began to think twice, and they are now looking into alternative options in Southeast Asia. With so much uncertainty in the relationship between Beijing and Washington, he believes that’s just the smart thing to do.
“If tariffs or disruption rear its head again, you can’t afford to not have product coming in,” he told me.
LaSpina’s dilemma is just one small example of how the confrontation between the United States and China is already reshaping the world—in both good and bad ways—and even a final trade pact may not slow the momentum for change. Deteriorating ties between the two countries are influencing everything from grand geopolitical strategy to our daily lives: where products at your local Walmart are made; where jobs will be created or lost; the technology we will (and won’t) be using; who may be studying next to you at Harvard; and how to invest your money.