(May 8): When the Western barbarians attacked China in the middle of the 19th century, it was a full-on brutal and bloody assault on the front door. When the Manchus attacked and overthrew the Ming dynasty in 1644, they came through the Shanhai Pass door, unlocked by the Ming general Wu Sangui. 

The differences in strategic approach to resolving problems remain. US President Donald Trump has been brutal and brash in his destruction of the global trading order with his frontal attacks on the World Trade Organization (WTO). The final assault was his refusal to confirm the appointment of appellate judges to the WTO trade dispute board. 

After five months of attacks, trade dispute resolution has come to a standstill. New complaints about dumping and unfair tariffs have been sidelined. It is not true to say world trade ground to a halt, but it is certainly fair to say that the grit in the wheels of dispute resolution was having an impact. Covid-19 has magnified the impact because appeals against the inevitable raft of new US tariffs, particularly against China, would have no formal dispute resolution mechanism other than direct conflict.

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