The longer President Trump's trade war with China drags on and the further it escalates, the worse its impact will be — and the United States is already feeling the pain. But the trade war will not resolve itself. Instead, Washington must be willing to engage with Beijing and restart negotiations. Right now, that’s not in Trump’s plan.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that officials in both China and the U.S. said that Washington was demanding a concrete proposal from Beijing to resolve grievances before trade talks would resume.

This is not how trade negotiations work.

Talks with Beijing have stalled since September, when Trump announced additional tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing, understandably, saw that as a bad faith move and canceled planned talks with Washington.

Since then, Beijing has repeatedly tried to restart talks only to be met with rebuffs from Washington. The strategy seems to be to wait for China to come up with agreeable terms, forcing Beijing to capitulate to Trump’s demands for a Chinese proposal.

For Beijing, Washington is asking the impossible.

China is unlikely do anything that is seen as losing face to Trump and western powers. The modern Chinese Communist Party's power depends in large part on resistance to humiliation by the West. Indeed, that’s the push behind Chinese President Xi Jinping’s slogan: “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” — a sort of equivalent to “Make America Great Again.”

Giving a proposal to Washington on its own might well be considered capitulation, but that’s only the beginning of the risk of passing along such a document instead of first engaging in negotiations.

When pushing to join the World Trade Organization, China gave such a document outlining its proposal to Washington. Then, President Bill Clinton preemptively released Beijing’s proposal on the U.S. Trade Representative website, creating turmoil and pushback within China. Ultimately, that made publicly reaching a deal similar to the one that Beijing had proposed in private much more difficult that it would have been had China been able to present the plan to its own people in its own terms.

Moreover, China is worried that any offer that it makes, even if U.S. negotiators support the plan, might meet with an unexpected response from President Trump. Already, the White House has torpedoed offers that officials had expected Trump to support.

This leaves Beijing in a pinch and backed into a corner. Doing what Trump had demanded would likely spell political difficulties at home with no guarantee of success at mitigating the trade war.

That’s a gamble that China is unwilling to take, as a rejected offer, made public and touted by the U.S. president to belittle the Chinese president, would be exactly the sort of humiliation that Chinese government has based its legitimacy on fighting.

This not-unreasonable calculation from Beijing means that if Trump is serious about reaching a deal and averting the pain of further tariffs and the treat of deteriorating relations beyond trade, the U.S. needs a different approach. Washington must be willing to engage with Beijing and cannot expect a concrete proposal in advance.

The good news is that Trump and Xi should have a chance to work some of these difficulties at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, where the two leaders will meet face to face in November. Trump himself has set the stakes for the meeting and a potential agreement. If it is not productive, the president will follow through with raising tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese imports on Jan. 1, meaning more pain for China — and for the U.S.

For that meeting to be productive, however, Washington needs to revise its strategy and actually try negotiations and deal-making.

After all, you can’t win a trade war without trying, and a unilateral demand is hardly a good faith attempt.