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During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump attacked U.S. President Barack Obama and his former secretary of state — and 2016 Democratic candidate — Hillary Clinton for their presumably “soft” stance on China. Trump’s “tough guy” approach and the forceful isolationism he campaigned on (“Make America Great Again”) entrenched that narrative as the candidate heightened real-life fears that permeated the business community (including intellectual property theft and loss of competitiveness due to administrative regulations and unfair trade agreements). He accused his predecessors of condoning the delocalization of American jobs to China.

China ultimately illustrated a broader point on globalization Trump was making, and it became a boogeyman voters could easily identify and rally against. On election night, it helped Trump notch unexpected victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio, all Rust Belt states handily carried by Democrats before (and where a confident Hillary Clinton sometimes didn’t even show up during the last months of the campaign).

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