China is retaliating to Trump’s massive tariffs by aiming directly at his supporters

President Donald Trump.

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President Donald Trump.
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

  • China has announced new tariffs on imports of soybeans from the US.
  • Soybeans are the largest agricultural export to China from the US, totaling $14.2 billion in 2016.
  • President Donald Trump won eight of last year’s top 10 soybean-producing states in the 2016 election – meaning China is taking a shot at his political base.

China struck back at the US on Wednesday by announcing new tariffs on $50 billion worth of American goods. And the move appears to have a distinct message for President Donald Trump.

In response to Trump’s recently announced tariffs, the Chinese measure includes new restrictions on imports of soybeans from the US.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the US sent China $14.2 billion worth of soybeans in 2016, making it the largest agricultural export to China. Additionally, China was the destination for 61.2% of the US’s total soybean exports.

And the bulk of the US production is concentrated in the Midwest – in states that Trump carried in the 2016 election.

According to the USDA, last year, eight of the top 10 states producing soybeans were ones Trump won: Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Kansas.

soybean production

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Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

Trump also carried states just outside the top 10, including North Carolina and South Carolina.

Republican lawmakers have cautioned Trump that any trade fight with China could be harmful to their constituents. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the chair of the Senate Agricultural Committee, warned of the potential downsides after Trump last month announced tariffs on steel and aluminum.

“Every time you do this, you get a retaliation, and agriculture is the No. 1 target,” Roberts said on March 1. I think this is terribly counterproductive for the ag economy.”

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue responded to worries on Wednesday during an event in Ohio. Perdue said that while there are some “legitimate concerns” over China’s action, Trump promised to protect the farmers from getting caught in the crossfire.

“I talked to the President as recently as last night,” Perdue said. “And he said, ‘Sonny, you can assure your farmers out there that we’re not going to allow them to be the casualties if this trade dispute escalates. We’re going to take care of our American farmers. You can tell them that directly.”