China: Ready for a trade war with the U.S.
China has a simple message for U.S. President Donald Trump: “Pull back from the brink,” said the China Daily (China) in an editorial. The American leader pushed the world’s two biggest economies closer to confrontation last week by authorizing $60 billion in tariffs on a range of Chinese imports and placing restrictions on Chinese investments in U.S. high-technology projects. Beijing in turn announced $3 billion in penalties on U.S. imports, including fruit, pork, and steel pipes—retaliation, the Commerce Ministry said, for Trump’s earlier tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. Our leaders are now negotiating with the Americans in hopes of stopping the $60 billion in tariffs from going into effect. If Trump refuses to rescind the penalties, Beijing will strike back with like-for-like measures. “China does not want a trade war with anyone,” the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement. “But China is not afraid of and will not recoil from a trade war.”
The Chinese people have many ways to punish the “arrogant and naïve” Trump administration, said the Global Times (China). We could impose tariffs on the $12.4 billion worth of soybeans that the U.S. exports to China every year, which would hurt farmers in crucial Trump-supporting states such as Iowa. Those American imports wouldn’t be hard to replace: “Soybean producers in Brazil and Russia are all desperate to squeeze U.S. soybeans out of the Chinese market.” China can also spread economic pain to the Rust Belt states that Trump has vowed to resurrect. A state-run social media campaign could easily convince Chinese consumers to boycott Detroit-headquartered General Motors, which would struggle to survive without access to China’s booming auto market. After all, its cars are “inferior to those of German automakers, and are less fuel efficient than Japanese vehicles.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has a big advantage over Trump in any trade war, said Chris Keall in The National Business Review (New Zealand). Economic chaos could cost Trump’s Republican Party control of Congress in the midterms, killing the president’s agenda. Xi, an autocrat “who recently abolished term limits, faces no such limitations.” Yes, he has to keep the top echelons of the Communist Party happy, but the ballot box and critical media coverage are not a problem. “If it comes down to a war of attrition, he holds all the cards.” Escalation is inevitable because Beijing can’t agree to Trump’s demands, said the Global Times. Trump’s “America First” vision means that we must always be second: these tariffs are part of a wider strategy meant to “strangle China’s high-tech firms” and deny our nation the right to become the world’s biggest economy. As a staunch believer in free trade, China will always try to avoid provoking trade frictions with the U.S. But “we must rise to the challenge if the U.S. is determined to loot China’s future to nurture itself.” By taking decisive action now, we will “make Washington think twice whenever it has the urge to act tough against China.” ■