China ‘ready to fight’ if US carries out renewed tariffs threat

State media reacts defiantly after White House’s suggestion that it could still impose tariffs on US$50 billion of Chinese goods

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 1:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 5:07pm

China’s state media has lashed into a US announcement that it would press ahead with restrictions on investment by Chinese companies, saying Beijing was ready to fight back if Washington was looking to ignite a trade war.

The United States said on Tuesday that it still held the threat of imposing tariffs on US$50 billion of imports from China and would use it unless Beijing addressed the issue of theft of American intellectual property.

The declaration by the White House came after the two sides had agreed earlier this month to look at steps to narrow China’s US$375 billion trade surplus with the US, and days ahead of a visit to the Chinese capital by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for further talks.

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China’s commerce ministry reacted swiftly on Wednesday with a short statement saying it was surprised and saw it as contrary to the consensus reached by the two sides.

Chinese tabloid Global Times said the US was suffering from a “delusion” and warned that the “trade renege could leave Washington dancing with itself”.

The widely read newspaper is run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, although its stance does not necessarily reflect Chinese government policy.

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“The Chinese government will have the necessary measures in place to deal with a US withdrawal from any settled agreement,” it said. “If the US wants to play games, then China would be more than willing to play along and do so until the very end.”

Fears of a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies had also receded after US President Donald Trump’s administration said it had reached a deal to reprieve ZTE after banning China’s second-biggest telecoms equipment maker from buying US parts.

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Still hanging in the balance, however, is San Diego-based Qualcomm’s proposal to acquire NXP Semiconductors – a US$44 billion deal that requires clearance from China’s antitrust regulators.

Xinhua said China hoped that the US would not act impulsively but stood ready to fight to protect its interests.

“China’s attitude, as always, is: we do not want to fight, but we are also not afraid to fight,” it said in a commentary.

“China will continue to hold pragmatic consultations with the United States’ delegation and hope that the United States will act in accordance with the spirit of the joint statement.”

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Commerce Secretary Ross is expected to visit Beijing from Saturday to Monday to try to persuade China to agree to firm numbers for additional US exports to the country.

The deal to reduce China’s trade surplus with the US was separate from the US probe into China’s alleged theft of intellectual property.

A White House official said on Tuesday that the US government plans to shorten the length of visas issued to some Chinese citizens as part of a strategy to prevent intellectual property theft by US rivals.

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Citing a document issued by the Trump administration in December, the official said the US government would consider restrictions on visas for science and technology students from some countries to ensure “intellectual property is not transferred to our competitors”.

China Daily said the repeated US claim that China had forced foreign firms to transfer their technologies to Chinese businesses was without evidence and was being used as an excuse to facilitate its trade protectionism.

It said technology transfers between US companies and their Chinese partners were the result of normal business practices, not coercive policies.