5:52 am PST
Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass

Trade tensions between the United States and China — the two biggest economies in the world — have been hotly debated in financial circles and in the media since July 6 when Washington announced the first tariffs to be levied on Chinese imports. Beijing responded with its own tariffs, which were met with more tariffs from the Trump administration.

While many economists say that U.S. President Trump’s hard line on China’s business practices is reckless and threatens the stability of world trade, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass believes that the administration’s policies are simply following geopolitical sense.

Bass, who is the founder and chief information officer of Hayman Capital Management, gave an interview with CNBC Exclusive on Aug. 6. In it, he said that China has been stealing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of intellectual property from U.S. companies and has been using its economic might to spread its political influence across Asia and other parts of the world.

“What we’re trying to do is counterbalance China’s offensive,” Kyle told CNBC, describing the U.S. government’s trade policies. “China’s offensive is both through economic coercion and … geopolitical coercion.”

China’s economy grew tremendously starting in the 1990s. At first this was a result of American diplomatic strategy during the Cold War, when Washington and Beijing developed warmer trade relations to counter the Soviet Union.

American leaders gave China preferential trade relations, even though it was, and still is, ruled by a repressive communist regime. From its end, however, China maintained strict trade barriers to U.S. and other foreign companies in order to maximize benefit for its own domestic production.

“We haven’t pushed back since Kissinger and Nixon pivoted to China to counterbalance Russia in the early 1970s,” Bass said. “I know that’s a really long time continuum. but it’s important for us to try to level the playing field a little bit here.”

Meanwhile, Bass noted, Beijing continued to pursue a foreign policy that runs counter to U.S. interests, such as by asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea, and influencing smaller countries through heavy state-backed investment loans.

“It’s all rooted in … their strong basis in the globe economically,” Bass said. “And literally we’re just pushing back a little bit.”

Many analysts believe that China has much more to lose in a sustained Sino-American trade war than the United States. Even though China’s economy makes use of market principles, it is still dominated by the Communist Party’s state-run companies, making it an inefficient competitor to the comparatively free United States.

China’s economic growth has already been stuttering for several years, even with the help of its protectionist policies. For the Communist Party, which is not democratically elected and relies on rising standards of living to maintain popular support, the trade war could mean the end of the regime if carried out to the full extent.

By: Leo Timm