I had a theory last night about what might have gone down in the Trump-Xi meeting, from reading between the lines. When I cite a credible news source I put (FACT). The rest is conjecture.
I think that the series of meetings Trump had with business leaders (including Tim Apple) and the hearings on tariffs a couple of weeks back actually convinced him that an additional round of tariffs on China would be bad for American business. He definitely believes in tariffs, but I think the message he received was “this much is actually going to harm the economy.” Trump does not want to harm the economy. It’s the strongest part of his presidency and his campaign (whether you agree or disagree with specific policies/outcomes).
But he had already announced that further tariffs would be implemented unless talks with Xi were productive. (FACT) If he abandoned the tariffs he would 1) look weak and 2) lose leverage. So he decided that, pretty much no matter what, he was going to refrain from the further tariffs. But he needed to try to get something out of Xi for it.
So he initiated the meeting (FACT) with Xi, and Xi said he would only meet if they agreed that no further tariffs would be enacted regardless (Politico and SCMP reported but Trump disputed). Trump likely said it will take more than that to make him stop the tariffs.
At the meeting, Trump likely reiterated all of his demands as an opening to the negotiation. Xi obviously declined, but in an effort to show 1) his willingness to work towards a solution and 2) to try to keep the talks open and avoid further tariffs, Xi offered things he was willing to give- i.e. buying more American shit. He’s never had a problem with this concession. I’m not sure if they discussed Huawei, but it’s possible Trump agreed to loosen the restrictions as a compromise. Both sides have something to take away from the talk without giving any ground on the key issues (IP and tariffs mostly, from what I can tell).
They likely tried to discuss further items but didn’t actually get anywhere. This is why there has been no solid update on any items, but a positive sentiment from both sides. They agree to keep the talks going, because both economies were hurt when they were not talking. This gives them the opportunity to at least join the rest of G-20 in signaling more global cooperation, even if nothing has actually changed.
So I don’t think this is hugely positive or negative. This is why I think we have maybe a small green day Monday for the risk-off but no rocket ship to the moon.
Tldr: Trump didn’t want to put more tariffs on anyway after speaking to American business leaders but didn’t want to look weak or give up leverage so he tried to make out like his decision to not impose tariffs was because Xi cooperated and talks went well, when really nothing substantive has changed.