In his trade conflict with China, President Trump has made big demands and big claims that his tariffs on Chinese imports will force Beijing to give in.
"I think we will make a deal with China."
"I really think they want to."
"I think they sort of have to."
The reality is more complicated.
President Xi Jinping has leverage, too.
Available data about the Chinese economy shows plenty of trouble.
Stocks on the Shanghai Composite Index declined 25% last year.
China reported 2018 growth of 6.6%, the slowest in 30 years.
The question is why?
Nick Lardy, an expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics says the biggest factor is Beijing's own internal economic policies.
Trump's tariffs, he says, have made China's economy only slightly worse.
But the tariffs have also hurt America's economy.
Wall Street has grown jittery, U.S. growth is slowing.
And unlike Xi Jinping whose term is unlimited, Trump faces voters next year.
All those factors would seem to point toward the two largest economies making a modest compromise.
Just like the deal Trump made with Canada and Mexico to revise NAFTA.
"Called U.S.M.C.A. Sort of just works."
Trade specialists say Xi won't eliminate his signature Made in China 2025 program or wipe out Beijing's huge trade surplus in two years, as Trump has demanded.
But Beijing might agree to bring down that surplus by purchasing more U.S. goods and open new markets to American exporters.
If Trump portrays that as a White House victory, Beijing won't mind.
Because in some ways Trump's America First policy has been helping China.
By exiting the Trans-Pacific Partnership and roiling U.S. allies, Trump has opened the door for a larger Chinese role in global trade.
"I think the Chinese were ecstatic that the United States pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership."
"And that is an element of the Trump presidency that they're very, very pleased with."
"And they are taking advantage of it."
"They want to create a regional economic trading system that revolves around China, and not one in which the U.S. is involved, much less a major player."
By diminishing other international commitments he enlarges China's opportunity for expanded influence through its Belt and Road Initiative of overseas investment.
"It's planned as one of the largest and most comprehensive development projects in human history."
"They are relentlessly seeking control of ports and raw materials' flows all over Africa."
"I mean it is such a nakedly neocolonial strategy."
And by downplaying human rights, Trump has relieved a non-economic source of American pressure on the authoritarian Chinese regime.
Just as President Trump predicts big economic benefits from a China trade deal, his aides insist the administration is upholding American influence in other ways.
A White House spokesman questioned the idea that Trump has downplayed human rights at all, and noted that the administration is pursuing economic, security and governance cooperation with countries in the Indo-Pacific region without TPP.
In addition to trade, Vice President Pence said recently that cooperation includes infrastructure projects better than the "unsustainable poor quality" kind in China's Belt and Road Initiative.
"Know that the United States offers a better option."
"We don't drown our partners in a sea of debt."
"We don't coerce or compromise your independence."
"The United States deals openly and fairly."
"We do not offer a constricting belt or a one way road."
"When you partner with us we partner with you, and we all prosper."
Even if the Trump administration can reach a bilateral trade deal with China; Experts like Larry Diamond worry that Beijing's broader effort to expand its global power may work, at the expense of America and the Western world.
"I really cannot imagine a more realistic scenario for the future shape of the world;"
"Not inevitable but plausible that is more frightening than having an unreconstructed and increasingly neo-totalitarian, Orwellian Chinese Communist Party state being the dominant and hegemonic superpower in the world."
"The alternative to that has got to be a comprehensive strategy led by the world's democracies,
"To project our own values of freedom, democracy, personal autonomy and innovation, freedom of ideas and information and to counter the Chinese narrative."