BEIJING • US President Donald Trump's pick for ambassador to China, Mr Terry Branstad, said he would help increase trade in a "win- win" for both countries, Chinese state media reported, amid concerns over protectionist talk from the new US administration.
Mr Trump has railed against China's trade practices, blaming them for US job losses, and has threatened to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports.
Beijing says it will work with Washington to resolve any trade disputes, but state media has warned of retaliation if Mr Trump takes the first steps towards a trade war.
Mr Branstad, currently the governor of Iowa, said he would help to work out differences and that there was immense potential for more Chinese investment in the US.
"We want to continue to enhance the relationship and to increase trade between our two countries," he told the official Xinhua news agency in an interview in the US published late on Thursday.
"I hope... that I can play a constructive role trying to work out many of these differences in a way that makes it a win-win. It is beneficial to both of our countries, and also benefits the rest of the world," Xinhua cited Mr Branstad as saying. "I think we have seen just the tip of the iceberg of the potential (Chinese) investments here," he said.
Mr Trump's nomination of Mr Branstad - a long-time Republican governor who has developed relationships with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders - was well-received, even among some Democrats. He still faces a confirmation hearing.
Mr Trump has moved to fill his administration with critics of China's trade policies, including Mr Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary, Mr Robert Lighthizer for US trade representative, and Dr Peter Navarro, an economist and China hawk who will serve as a White House adviser.
The two countries' leaders have yet to speak since Mr Trump took office, though they did talk soon after Mr Trump won the election.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked whether a call was in the offing, would only say that the two sides were continuing to remain in "close contact".
Free trade advocates worry that Mr Trump's trade team will be too quick to use tariffs to keep imports out, raising costs for manufacturers that rely on imported parts - or even sparking retaliatory trade wars.
Mr Xi made a vigorous defence of globalisation at the World Economic Forum last month, and presented China's economy as "wide open", despite complaints from the foreign business community that Beijing has not made good on pledges of economic liberalisation.
The official China Daily newspaper said yesterday that China could weather trade frictions better than the US, as its exports accounted for a larger proportion of global trade, but that Mr Trump's words and actions "bode ill" for relations.