President Donald Trump holds up a signed presidential memorandum targeting China's economic aggression in the White House in Washington, D.C. on March 22, 2018.
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images
By Alan Murray and David Meyer
May 18, 2018

Good morning.

As I reported earlier this week, fears of a trade war with China are one of the greatest economic threats that Fortune 500 CEOs see on the horizon these days. But here’s an interesting tidbit from our survey: a majority of those CEOs actually support Trump’s tough tactics with the Chinese.

Words matter in a case like this, so let me tell you the precise question we asked:

Which of the following better represents your view of the administration’s trade initiative toward China, even if neither is perfectly right:

1. I favor the Trump administration’s trade action with China. We have allowed the Chinese to violate global trade norms for too long.

2. I oppose the Trump administration’s trade action with China, on the grounds that it is likely to hurt U.S. consumers and businesses more than help them.

Of the 76 Fortune 500 CEOs who answered that question, 53% chose the first statement, supporting Trump.

The president said yesterday that he doubted the talks with the Chinese would be successful: “The reason I doubt it is because China has become very spoiled….they always got 100% of whatever they wanted from the United States.” That public statement, however, was likely part of the president’s negotiating strategy, and probably aimed at the delegation that was in Washington negotiating yesterday. Other administration officials are more hopeful about the outlook, arguing that the Chinese have more to lose from a trade fight than the U.S. does.

Citing U.S. officials, reports yesterday indicated the Chinese delegation already has agreed to cut $200 billion from its bilateral trade balance with the U.S.—no small concession. However, China has now denied it made this offer.

The Chinese trade talks will continue in Washington today. Other news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

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