How serious is the U.S.-China trade spat? With a U.S. election looming and the American economy making a tentative recovery, it could turn much worse—more for political than economic reasons. Last week, after Washington announced plans to slap quotas on imports of Chinese bras, nightgowns and knitwear, Beijing was quick to fire back. It postponed a delegation that was going to the U.S. to buy commodities, and the U.S. ambassador in Beijing was twice summoned for official chidings. An editorial in the China Daily derided "the cheap political points the Bush Administration scored by touting trade protectionism."