China needs to play hardball as threat of trade war with US looms ever larger

By Xiao Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/18 22:31:22

China needs to assume a more active posture as the US government has shifted into a near-attack mode that could ignite a trade war between the world's two largest economies.

In response to the US Trade Representative's recently issued blacklist of Chinese online and brick-and-mortar markets for sales of fake goods, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on Thursday explicitly expressed skepticism about the credibility of the blacklist.

The list lacks solid evidence, Gao Feng, a ministry spokesman, told a regular news conference. He also urged the US to reevaluate Chinese companies' intellectual property rights (IPR) protection efforts.

The MOFCOM's response is a clear example of China's polite, restrained attitude toward trade disputes with the US. The Trump administration, however, keeps sending defiant messages that apparently weigh on bilateral trade. If politeness is not enough to overcome provocation, China will have to get tougher on the US.

In an interview with Reuters in Washington on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump said the US was considering a big "fine" over China's alleged theft of intellectual property.

Claiming that the damages could be high, Trump said "he would be announcing some kind of action against China over trade," according to Reuters.

Over the past year, the US government has torpedoed a series of deals in which Chinese companies sought to acquire US assets. The most recent example was the failure of Ant Financial, Alibaba's digital payments offshoot, to get regulatory approval for its planned purchase of US cash transfer company MoneyGram International.

In light of the retaliatory trade action Trump threatened to take against China, Naura, a Chinese State-controlled semiconductor company, was revealed on Wednesday to have gained US regulatory approval for its acquisition of US rival Akrion Systems. However, this appears to be more of a carrot-and-stick approach to bilateral trade issues than a genuine silver lining in the gloom. All these actions point to increasing pressure the US attempts to exert on China, which the Trump administration mistakenly relies on as a way of implementing the "America First" doctrine.

If the US continues its misguided attempts to cope with its widening trade deficit with China, it won't be a surprise that both countries will take a hit. Chinese customs data showed last week that the nation's trade surplus with the US widened 13 percent to a record high of 1.87 trillion yuan ($291.28 billion) in 2017.

In the Reuters interview, Trump - who bragged about his China visit last year that brought $250 billion in US business deals - said that if there is a trade war, there is.

His words foreshadowed a looming cold war on trade. China, for its part, will also need to play hardball in trade disputes.With many US firms operating in China, it is not difficult to find a target.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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