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In the past, the United States used its economic clout to win trade skirmishes with developing countries, said James Boughton, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario. China, whose economy has grown tenfold since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, poses a much more formidable adversary.

“The dynamic is different from anything we’ve seen,” said Boughton. “China has an ability to ride out this kind of pressure, to weather the storm, that a lot of countries didn’t have in the past.”

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