Beijing is talking tough on trade as the White House prepares to hit China hard over trade disputes, warning Washington that it will not sit idly by as the U.S. targets its interests.
President Donald Trump is expected to announce up to $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese exports in response to the theft of intellectual property. As countless observers again panic over the possibility of an imminent trade war, China is warning that it is prepared to retaliate against planned punitive actions by Washington.
“China has expressed its position on many occasions that we resolutely oppose this type of unilateral and protectionist action by the U.S.,” the Ministry of Commerce said Thursday, referring to the Section 301 investigation into Chinese intellectual property theft and rumored tariffs. “China will not sit idly by while legitimate rights and interests are hurt,” the ministry added. “We must take all necessary measures to firmly defend our rights and interests.”
The tariffs, which the president may announce as early as Thursday, will be the first punitive trade measures directly targeting China. Previous measures, such as the tariffs on steel, aluminum, washing machines, and solar panels, targeted multiple countries.
“Upholding economic stability serves the interests of the two sides,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Thursday. She then pinned the blame for the $375 billion U.S. trade deficit with China on U.S. export restrictions, such as limitations on advanced technology exports.
“Everybody knows that when it comes to trade, absolute reciprocity is not possible,” she explained, adding, “The U.S. on the one hand requires China to buy its products. On the other hand, it refuses to allow China to buy what it wants to buy from the U.S. Is this fair?”
“We hope that both sides can sit down and talk calmly,” Hua said.
The nationalistic state-run tabloid Global Times warned that China may retaliate by targeting American exports tied to Trump’s base.
“If China halves the proportion of the U.S. soybean imports, it will not have any major impact on China, but the U.S. bean farmers will complain. They were mostly Trump supporters. Let them confront Trump,” the tabloid argued. Experts have also suggested that China could potentially target companies like Boeing, Apple, and Ford in a trade war, although China is not expected to engage the U.S. in a full-fledged trade war, despite its threats.
“No one will emerge a winner from a trade war,” Premier Li Keqiang stressed Tuesday. China has threatened retaliation in the past, but so far, it has yet to react to Trump’s trade measures with much more than rhetoric.
“We are losing to China,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers Wednesday. “We have a very serious problem of losing our intellectual property.” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross warned in 2017 that “American genius” is “under serious attack” from China, arguing that “intellectual property theft and expropriation costs US businesses as much as $600bn a year.”
“If the U.S. takes actions that impair trade relations, disregards the facts and disrespects multilateral trade rules, China will not sit idle but take necessary measures to safeguard our legitimate rights,” the Ministry of Commerce said in response to the secretary’s comments.
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