President Trump imposed steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports this month, amid complaints from American companies that the Chinese government props up too many wasteful factories.
But here in the small Chinese town of Chengkouzhen, officials last year let the factory go idle. That cut off the steam that once heated the apartments where its workers live.
“I need to wear a thick cotton-padded jacket” even indoors, Li said. “I just hope this factory can operate again.”
Officials in Washington say that China has too many steel and aluminum factories — and many Chinese officials agree. In that way, Trump’s tariffs are aimed at trade battles of the past.
Even as China makes veiled threats to retaliate against the United States, it is forcing many Chinese companies to close wasteful, polluting factories to fix its economy and clean up its skies. It wants them to make more high-value, high-tech products instead — the kind that would compete with American goods on a whole new level. China has already moved away from exporting sheets of steel or chunks of aluminum, and toward selling prefabricated steel bridges and lightweight alloy aluminum car wheels.
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