China shows resolve as it prepares for US tariffs

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/5 19:28:22

China on Thursday reiterated its strong resolve to firmly defend its national interests and those of the global multilateral trade system against potential unilateral, protectionist US tariffs on Chinese goods, while also leaving room to avert what could become a consequential trade conflict.

A day ahead of the start of tit-for-tat tariffs between the US and China, Chinese officials renewed their harsh criticism of the US for taking unilateral action that could hurt not only China and the US but also the world. However, China said it would not fire the first shot.

Strong resolve

"China will not bow in the face of threats and blackmail, and its strong resolve to defend global free trade and the multilateral system will not be shaken," Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) spokesperson Gao Feng told a press briefing in Beijing.

The US has threatened to impose tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods starting Friday. In response, China has also threatened to impose tariffs on $34 billion in US goods on the same day.

"The US started this trade war. We do not want a fight, but in order to safeguard the interests of the country and its people, we have to fight when necessary," Gao said. "China will not fire the first shot, but if the US implements the tariffs, China will be forced to retaliate."

In a statement on Thursday, the General Administration of Customs also said that China's previously announced tariffs on US goods will take effect immediately after the US implements its tariffs on Chinese goods.

"This is the way we show our resolve. The Chinese side is not just all talk, but will fight back if you impose tariffs on our products," Liang Ming, director of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation's foreign trade institute, a MOFCOM-affiliated think tank, told the Global Times.

China has shown its willingness to defuse trade tensions with the US during several rounds of negotiations, and has taken the initiative to address concerns, including market access and business conditions, according to Dong Yan, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of World Economics and Politics.

"We have tried very hard to prevent a war but the US has ruined it. So this is not on us, it's on them," Dong told the Global Times.

Call for global efforts

While positioning itself as a staunch defender of the global multilateral trade system, China also urged other countries to join the fight against the US, analysts said.

"We urge all countries to take action to fight trade protectionism and unilateralism and protect the shared interests of the people of the world," Gao said, noting that the US move against China will hurt the global value chain and, in turn, the global economy.

"Put it simply, the US is firing at the world and itself."

Gao said that $20 billion of the $34 billion in Chinese goods targeted by US tariffs are produced by Chinese affiliates of foreign companies, of which a considerable number are US companies.

"There is a possibility that other countries that support free trade will automatically take China's side against US unilateralism and protectionism. That's what we hope happens," Liang said.

However, even as China is committed to fighting back, it keeps a door open for the US to halt the tariffs and negotiate, Liang noted.

"By stressing that China will not act first, Chinese officials are making a friendly gesture to the US in hopes that the US pulls back before it's too late," he said.

Newspaper headline: China braces for US tariffs

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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