US has more to lose from antagonizing 1.4b buyers

By Wen Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/5 20:33:41

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT



 

According to US media reports, President Donald Trump is considering taking further tough trade measures against China. Most of the reports indicated that he will go ahead with an earlier proposal to impose 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

Trump hopes to ratchet up pressure on China in order to force Beijing to cave in to Washington's exorbitant demands - including drastically cutting the US trade deficit with China and hindering China's efforts to develop its high-tech industry.

Chinese people have paid close attention to the escalating trade spat and rising tensions between the US and China, which Trump began earlier in 2018. They have also noticed how Washington has treated its allies in other trade disputes, whether the target was Canada, Japan or the EU. These talks also featured coercive efforts and sometimes insulting language from Trump.

In the past few months, China has mostly taken a conciliatory tone in its talks with the US, in the hope that the two countries can iron out their differences on the negotiating table and maintain a "workable" relationship, as they did before. China strongly believes that the world's two largest economies should shoulder the responsibility to help and lead the world's growth, rather than holding it back.

China has also been discreet in dealing with the US pressure, responding in kind with tariffs on first $34 billion and then $16 billion worth of US products. And during the four rounds of talks in Washington and in Beijing, China even suggested a compromise, offering to purchase nearly $70 billion worth of US farm, manufacturing and energy products if the Trump administration abandoned the threatened tariffs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

To most Chinese people, this situation was really disheartening. It led to the firmer belief that the US does not want compromise or genuine talks to resolve trade problems, and that the Trump administration is bent on throttling China's technological advancement.

The US has further displayed its ill-will by proposing ramping up the initial 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to a crushing 25 percent. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the move as imposing "extreme pressure," and the majority of Chinese people see it as tantamount to launching economic warfare.

If Trump goes ahead with the move to raise the tariffs to 25 percent, the consequences could be serious.

Chinese people would surely retaliate in their own ways by boycotting US brands. When the sales of Apple phones, GM and Ford cars and products from Starbucks, Nike and other big US brands tumble in China, and when fewer and fewer Chinese tourists and students fly to the US, politicians in Washington will get to know the wrath of 1.4 billion Chinese people. And at the same time, the consumer price index in the US will keep surging as the rarity of inexpensive Chinese goods on store shelves drives up prices for American people.

It is totally unwise for the US government to antagonize a large country whose people are generally friendly and hard-working and whose purchasing power keeps rising. After experiencing a protracted and bruising trade war, the US will find that Chinese customers shun US goods and will be unwilling to go back to buying them. When 1.4 billion people believe the US is an unfriendly rival, Washington will be the bigger loser.

The author is an editor with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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