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Ever since negotiators from the United States and China sat down in Beijing after a Christmas meltdown in global markets, Donald Trump has sought to calm investors and claim his trade talks are making great strides. But that glosses over a more uncomfortable reality.

According to people close to the discussions, the two sides have so far made little progress on the issue that any deal Trump strikes with China may ultimately be judged on: ending what the U.S. has dubbed decades of state-coordinated Chinese theft of American intellectual property.

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