BEIJING — In an elegantly furnished back room at a conference in eastern China in December, a member of the Chinese leadership asked American tech executives attending the event for help.

北京——12月,中国东部地区举办的一次会议上,在一间典雅的会议室内,一位中国领导层成员向出席此次会议的美国高科技企业高管寻求帮助。

The official, Wang Huning, a Communist Party strategist who has spent much of his career sizing up the United States as a geopolitical rival, wanted to know whether President Trump was serious about a trade war with China — and whether they could serve as a channel of communication to the White House.

这位名叫王沪宁的官员是共产党的战略家,其职业生涯的大部分时间里都把美国视为地缘政治对手,他想知道,特朗普总统是不是真地要跟中国打贸易战,这些高管是否可以成为中国同白宫沟通的渠道。

He has not been alone.

他并不是唯一一个这样做的人。

For the past few months, some of the most powerful men in China — allies of President Xi Jinping with longstanding ties and deep experience with the United States — have been casting about for a better understanding of Mr. Trump and how to respond to his combative trade agenda, according to several people they have consulted.

在过去的几个月里,根据被咨询到的人说,中国最有影响力的一些人在想方设法更好地去理解特朗普,以及如何应对他好斗的贸易议程——这些人是习近平主席的盟友,与美国有着长期联系,有同美国打交道的深厚经验。

中国共产党的新一届政治局常委,去年10月摄于北京。
中国共产党的新一届政治局常委,去年10月摄于北京。 Wang Zhao/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Vice President Wang Qishan has met in recent weeks with a series of American business leaders and former cabinet officials to question them about Mr. Trump’s trade threats. Liu He, the Politburo member coordinating economic policy, has done the same. One longtime China scholar in the United States said five officials had visited him seeking advice in the past two weeks alone.

最近几周,王岐山副主席与多位美国商界领袖和前内阁官员会面,向他们咨询特朗普的贸易威胁。负责协调经济政策的政治局成员刘鹤也在做同样的事情。一位身在美国、长期研究中国的学者说,仅在过去两周内,就有五位官员拜访他寻求建议。

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In these meetings, the Americans have warned that Mr. Trump’s complaints should be taken seriously because of widespread frustration in Washington with Chinese policies, especially a $300 billion program to dominate critical high-tech industries, known as Made in China 2025, that has alarmed the United States national security establishment.

在这些会面中,美国人警告说,特朗普的抱怨应当被认真对待,因为华盛顿方面普遍对中国的政策感到沮丧,特别是《中国制造2025》,它是一项价值3000亿美元的关键性高科技产业计划,令美国国家安全机构备感警惕。

It is unclear whether that message is making it through to Mr. Xi — or whether he has chosen to ignore it after concluding that Mr. Trump is bluffing and that the United States will back off, as it has in the past.

目前还不清楚这一信息是否传达给了习近平——亦不清楚他是否断定特朗普是在虚张声势,最后美国仍将像过去那样退缩,从而选择忽视这个信息。

Governing with a new mandate since engineering the removal of presidential term limits last month, Mr. Xi has personally taken control of decision-making in the trade standoff, according to analysts and political insiders with ties to the leadership. His unquestioned authority, some say, has made it more difficult for the party apparatus to deliver news that contradicts him.

根据分析人士以及与领导层有关系的内部人士的说法,习近平上个月一手策划取消了对国家主席的任期限制,并且获得了这一职务的新任命后,亲自掌控着应对贸易僵局的决策。有人说,他不容置疑的权威使党派机构更加难以传送与他观点相悖的消息。

“When you have this kind of regime, you want to report the good story,” said Tao Jingzhou, a managing partner at the global law firm Dechert who deals with senior Chinese officials. “I have the impression the leadership is not fully briefed about the seriousness of the atmosphere against China in the U.S. establishment.”

“如果政权是这样的,你就希望报告好消息。”全球律师事务所德杰(Dechert)负责与中国高级官员交涉的合伙人陶景洲说。“我的印象是,领导层没有充分了解到美国权势阶层反中气氛的严重性。”

The confusion over Mr. Trump’s stance on trade deepened on Thursday when he said, in a surprise move, that he was considering rejoining the multicountry trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, after abruptly withdrawing the United States from the negotiations last year.

周四,特朗普的贸易立场带来的困惑进一步加深,他出人意料地宣称,继美国去年突然退出跨太平洋伙伴关系(Trans-Pacific Partnership)谈判后,他现在在考虑重新加入这一多国贸易协议。

去年,中国制造的C919客机在上海浦东国际机场首飞。
去年,中国制造的C919客机在上海浦东国际机场首飞。 Pool photo by Andy Wong

Mr. Xi has elevated a coterie of advisers who have built their careers in part on their ability to interpret and handle the United States, perhaps more so than any of his predecessors. But they seem surprised and confused by Mr. Trump’s rapid-fire decisions and trade threats, like the move to impose punitive tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese imports, according to many who have met with them.

习近平提拔了一小群顾问,他们的职业生涯部分取决于解读和处理美国问题的能力,提拔的人数可能比习的历届前任都多。但是,许多与他们见面的人士表示,他们似乎对特朗普的迅速决策和贸易威胁感到惊讶和困惑,例如对中国进口商品额外加征1000亿美元的惩罚性关税

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These men include Wang Huning, the party’s chief ideologue, who has written a book about his visits to the United States as a young scholar; Wang Qishan, Mr. Xi’s most powerful lieutenant, who has cultivated relationships on Wall Street for decades; and Mr. Liu, the vice premier in charge of the economy, who has master’s degrees from Seton Hall and Harvard. Mr. Xi has also promoted Yang Jiechi, a former ambassador to Washington, to the party’s 25-member Politburo.

这些人包括王沪宁,中共的首席理论家,还是年轻学者的时候他写过一本关于访问美国的书;王岐山,习近平最得力的副手,数十年来与华尔街保持着良好的关系;刘鹤,主管经济的副总理,拥有塞顿霍尔大学(Seton Hall)和哈佛大学(Harvard)的硕士学位。习近平还提拔前驻华盛顿大使杨洁篪加入了中共的25人政治局。

Despite this deep bench of expertise, the Chinese leadership appears at a loss, grasping for interlocutors in an American political landscape that has been scrambled by Mr. Trump. For more than two decades, Beijing has watched corporate America make the case for trade with China and one American president after another embrace that agenda. But Mr. Trump has defied that pattern.

尽管相关人才济济,但中国的领导层似乎很迷茫,急切地在被特朗普搅乱的美国政坛寻找中间人。二十多年来,中国政府一直看到的是美国商界支持与中国的贸易,美国的历任总统也都支持这种做法。但特朗普摒弃了这种模式。

“Chinese experts do not understand the current state of the United States,” said Jie Zhao, a professor at the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, which trains senior civil servants in Shanghai. “They do not understand Trump, do not understand his team and do not understand the source of his policies.”

“在许多观察者看来:特朗普个人、他的团队和他的政策来源都是短时间内难以捉摸的,”中国浦东干部学院教授赵杰(音)说,该学院位于上海,培训高级公务员

Part of the problem is that the leadership’s usual contacts in the United States — often establishment figures with backgrounds in international finance and diplomacy — have been largely sidelined by Mr. Trump.

一个原因在于,中国领导层在美国的常用联系人大都被特朗普边缘化了。他们大多是拥有国际金融和外交背景的建制派人物。

“The people with whom Chinese officials are familiar in Washington are mainly the enemies of Trump,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “Trump hates those people.”

“中国官员在华盛顿熟悉的都是特朗普的敌人,”北京的中国人民大学国际关系教授时殷弘表示,“特朗普很讨厌这些人。”

去年11月,特朗普总统和梅拉妮·特朗普在北京。
去年11月,特朗普总统和梅拉妮·特朗普在北京。 Doug Mills/The New York Times

Beijing has also been frustrated as potential allies have fallen out of favor, including Gary D. Cohn, the chief economic adviser who counseled against tariffs but resigned last month, and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who appears to have stepped back on the issue because of his family’s business interests in China.

北京也为一些潜在的盟友失宠而感到沮丧,包括首席经济顾问加里·D·科恩(Gary D. Cohn),他反对征收关税,但上个月辞职了;还有特朗普的女婿贾里德·库什纳(Jared Kushner),由于他的家族在中国的商业利益,他似乎在回避这个议题。

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Looking for answers, Vice President Wang has met instead in recent weeks with three former Treasury secretaries — Timothy Geithner, Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Lawrence H. Summers — as well as Robert B. Zoellick, the former United States trade representative, and William S. Cohen, the former defense secretary.

为了寻找答案,中国国家副主席王岐山最近几周会见了美国的三位前财政部长——蒂莫西·盖特纳(Timothy Geithner)、小亨利·M·保尔森(Henry M. Paulson Jr.)和劳伦斯H·萨默斯(Lawrence H. Summers)——以及前美国贸易代表罗伯特·B·佐利克(Robert B. Zoellick)和前国防部长威廉·S·科恩(William S. Cohen)。

Business leaders who have met with Chinese leaders in the same period include Timothy D. Cook of Apple, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Chuck Robbins of Cisco, Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group and David M. Solomon of Goldman Sachs.

在同一时期与中国领导人会晤的商界领袖包括苹果公司(Apple)的蒂莫西·D·库克(Timothy D. Cook)、摩根大通(JPMorgan Chase)的杰米·戴蒙(Jamie Dimon)、思科(Cisco)的查克·罗宾斯(Chuck Robbins)、黑石集团(Blackstone Group)的史蒂芬·A·施瓦茨曼(Stephen A. Schwarzman),以及高盛(Goldman Sachs)的戴维·M·所罗门(David M. Solomon)。

“They ask, ‘Who can we talk to?’” said David M. Lampton, the scholar who has recently hosted five Chinese officials. “They don’t see a stable structure.”

“他们会问,‘我们可以找谁去谈?’”最近接待了五名中国官员的学者戴维·M·兰普顿(David M. Lampton)说。“他们觉得这个结构很不稳定。”

But Professor Lampton, of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, added that despite their frustration, the Chinese seemed satisfied that they can “outlast a U.S. administration that alienates its allies, erodes its own political base and has a public with a low threshold for pain.”

但约翰·霍普金斯大学高级国际问题研究学院(Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies)的兰普顿教授表示,中国人尽管沮丧,但似乎对自己可以“比这届疏远盟友、削弱政治基础的美国政府存在更长时间,以及美国民众对痛苦的承受能力很低而感到满意”。

There are vague hints of disagreement in Beijing over how to respond to Mr. Trump’s trade threats. Some in the elite have emphasized the potential impact of a trade war on the Chinese economy and urged negotiations, while others have argued that the dispute is part of a broader effort to thwart China’s rise — and that Beijing must respond accordingly.

对于如何应对特朗普的贸易威胁,北京似乎存在分歧。一些精英人士强调贸易战对中国经济的潜在影响,敦促进行谈判;而另一些人则认为,这场争端是阻碍中国崛起的更广泛努力的一部分,北京必须做出相应的回应。

在过去的几个月里,中国官员曾寻求美国三位前财政部长等专家的意见。
在过去的几个月里,中国官员曾寻求美国三位前财政部长等专家的意见。 Paul J. Richards/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“On the trade war issue, the hawkish atmosphere in China is quite strong right now,” said Chen Jieren, a political commentator in Beijing.

“中国目前在贸易战问题上,还是以战为主的这个氛围比较浓厚一些,”北京的政治评论员陈杰人表示。

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Although the tariffs that Mr. Trump has enacted thus far hit only a small segment of China’s steel and aluminum sector, the pain of a proposed additional set would be spread across manufacturers of more than 1,300 goods.

尽管特朗普实施的关税迄今只影响了中国钢铝行业的一小部分,但拟定额外征收的一批关税,可能会影响到1300多种商品的制造商。

Given the party’s tight control of the media, there has been no outcry against Mr. Xi’s policies like that by some American business leaders against Mr. Trump’s tariffs. It helps that no single sector or region in China stands out as especially vulnerable, though the aerospace industry could be stung and Chinese automakers eyeing exports to the United States would be disrupted.

鉴于中共对媒体的严格控制,习近平的政策没有像特朗普的关税遭到美国商业领袖的反对那样,引发强烈抗议。中国没有一个行业或地区特别容易受影响这一点有利,但航空航天业可能会遭到重创,把出口对准美国的中国车企也会受到影响。

The mood at a conference in the southern city of Boao this week that brought together Chinese business leaders was upbeat after Mr. Xi addressed the gathering and urged “dialogue rather than confrontation.”

本周,在中国南方城市博鳌召开的一场会议让中国的商界领袖聚在了一起。在习近平发表讲话并呼吁“对话而不对抗”后,会场气氛乐观。

But speaking at the conference, Fan Gang, the director of China’s National Economic Research Institute, warned of “systematic risk” to manufacturing supply chains. And Jack Ma, the founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, suggested that a trade war could destroy 10 million jobs.

但中国国民经济研究所所长樊纲在会上发表讲话时提醒注意制造业供应链面临的“系统性风险”。电商巨头阿里巴巴的创始人马云也暗示贸易战可能会毁掉1000万个就业岗位。

One sensitive question in Beijing is the fate of the Made in China 2025 plan, which has been the focus of the Trump administration’s complaints. The program would provide subsidies and loans to help Chinese firms acquire foreign competitors, develop advanced technologies and dominate key sectors such as alternative energy, robotics, telecom and artificial intelligence.

在北京,一个敏感的问题是《中国制造2025》计划的命运。该计划一直是特朗普政府抱怨的焦点。它会提供补贴和贷款,帮助中国企业收购外国竞争对手、发展先进技术并在替代能源、机器人、电信和人工智能等关键领域占据主导地位。

The military and security apparatus, and the industries close to them, regard the program as essential to China’s strategic ambitions. But discerning the attitude of China’s economic policymakers is more difficult, and not simply because it would be politically taboo to back away from a plan that Mr. Xi has blessed.

军事和安全机构,以及与它们密切相关的行业,认为该计划对中国的战略宏愿至关重要。但分辨中国经济政策制定者的态度更难,这不单是因为放弃习近平推崇的计划是政治禁忌。

Premier Li Keqiang, for example, has tended to take more conciliatory positions in trade disputes than colleagues in the leadership who favor asserting China’s clout as a global power. But Mr. Li also leads a cluster of government ministers who are the main architects and advocates of the Made in China 2025 program.

比如,中国总理李克强在贸易争端上的立场往往比他在领导层中的同僚更倾向于调解,后者支持维护中国作为全球大国的势力。但他领导下的一批政府部委负责人正是《中国制造2025》计划主要的设计师和支持者。

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They include Miao Wei, the minister of industry and information technology, and Wang Zhigang, the minister of science and technology. Like Mr. Li, both grew up in central China’s impoverished Anhui Province and favor an extensive role for the state in upgrading Chinese industries, acquaintances said.

他们包括工业和信息化部部长苗圩及科技部部长王志刚。相熟的人说,和李克强一样,这两人都在中国中部的贫困省份安徽长大,都支持国家在产业升级方面发挥广泛的作用。

On the other hand, the policymakers closest to Mr. Xi — men with finance backgrounds including Mr. Liu and Vice President Wang — are more interested in seeking geopolitical parity with the United States and less enthusiastic about industrial policy in general.

另一方面,与习近平关系极为密切的政策制定者——包括刘鹤和副总理王岐山在内的有金融背景的人——对在地缘政治上寻求与美国平起平坐更关心,对产业政策总体上不那么热心。

They worry that state intervention may distort markets and exacerbate the problems of China’s already debt-laden financial system, people who know them said.

知情人士说,他们担心国家干预可能会扭曲市场,加剧中国已经负债累累的金融系统的问题。

Yet such concerns have not translated into a willingness to retreat on the Made in China 2025 program in the face of Mr. Trump’s threats.

但这些担忧并没有转化为在特朗普的威胁下放弃《中国制造2025》计划的意愿。

“I don’t think China is willing to compromise Made in China 2025,” said Da Wei, a professor at the University of International Relations in Beijing. “This is the core of the competition.”

“我认为中国不会在《中国制造2025》上妥协,”位于北京的国际关系学院教授达巍说。“这是竞争的核心。”

Mr. Xi has charted a moderate course so far, retaliating in equal measure when the Trump administration has imposed tariffs, while urging that the dispute be resolved through negotiation.

迄今为止,习近平制定了一条温和的路线,在特朗普政府征收关税时采取同样的措施进行报复,同时呼吁通过谈判解决争端。

But talks have stalled since Chinese officials rejected American demands that Made in China 2025 be rolled back. A Chinese spokesman said on Thursday that no actual trade negotiations were underway.

但自从中国官方拒绝了美国废除《中国制造2025》的要求后,谈判就陷入停滞。中国的一名发言人周四表示,双方没有进行实际的贸易谈判。