The NYT had a seriously confused column by Lan Cao on U.S. trade policy. The piece touts the dollar's role as the world's leading currency, highlighting the fact that most oil is traded in dollars.

In reality, the need for countries to get dollars to buy oil is trivial. If a country does not otherwise want to hold dollars, it can hold its assets in any major currency. Since there are massive currency markets in which trillions of dollars worth of currency change hands every day, it can sell whatever currency it chooses to hold half a second before it needs the dollars to pay for oil. It would then be the oil seller's decision as to whether to keep the dollars or to change to a preferred currency.

The half-second demand for dollars created by the purchase of oil has a trivial impact in currency markets. If 60 million barrels of oil a day are traded and the price of oil is $70 a barrel, this comes to $4.2 billion a day. If this were done all the same half-second, it would be a minor blip in the currency market. Over the course of a day, it would not even be noticeable. 

The piece also refers to China's massive accumulation of dollars in the last decade as a positive for the US economy. China did not accumulate dollars because it in any way needed dollars. It accumulated dollars to keep down the value of its currency. This allowed it to run a massive trade surplus that peaked at more than 10 percent of GDP in 2007. (Fast-growing developing countries are expected to run trade deficits, as capital flows in.) 

China's trade surplus was associated with an explosion of the trade deficit in the United States. This led to the massive job loss in manufacturing in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. It is difficult to see how this is a good story for the United States.

The gap in demand in the economy that resulted from the trade deficit was filled by the housing bubble. The collapse of the bubble gave us the Great Recession, from which we are just now recovering.

If this is "winning" the trade war, as the piece claims, it is difficult to imagine what losing would be like.