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Fewer Chinese business executives, tourists and students are visiting the United States, a sign that the trade war between Washington and Beijing might spread in unpredictable and costly ways.
The nascent decline — visible in visa approvals and airline bookings — isn’t the result of official action by Beijing. But it highlights a potent weapon that China could use if the trade war persists: slashing the $60bn that Chinese consumers spend each year on American services such as travel and tourism.
Already, 102,000 fewer Chinese people received business, leisure and educational visas from May through September of this year compared with the same period last year, a 13 percent drop, according to State Department statistics.
Chinese airline reservations to U.S. destinations dropped 42 percent for the first week of October, a national holiday that normally means increased outbound trips, according to Skyscanner, a search engine owned by China’s largest travel company.
Unlike merchandise trade, for which President Trump often complains about the large deficit with China, the United States enjoys a sizable services surplus — making such commerce a large and potentially vulnerable target in a lengthy trade war. Since 2011, U.S. services trade with China has grown more than three times as fast as the shipments of goods that Trump usually focuses on.
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