China does not want trade war with US: Senior diplomat

 A Chinese worker is dwarfed by huge rolls of steel in a transhipment yard in northeast China's Shenyang.
A Chinese worker is dwarfed by huge rolls of steel in a transhipment yard in northeast China's Shenyang.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - China does not want a trade war with the United States, but will not allow its interests to be harmed, National People's Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui said on Sunday (March 4).

Noting that trade between the two countries exceeded US$580 billion (S$765 billion) in 2017, some friction is unsurprising, he told reporters one day before the opening of China's parliamentary sessions.

Despite trade-related flare-ups in recent weeks, Mr Zhang said officials from both sides have held consultations on trade and economic issues over the past two days.

The two countries have also agreed to continue dialogue in Beijing in the near future so as to create the conditions for deeper bilateral cooperation, he added.

After slapping stiff tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines in January, US president Donald Trump said last Thursday that he intends to do the same for steel and aluminium, a move that many fear will spark a global trade war.

In the face of global criticism, Mr Trump doubled down, tweeting last Friday that "trade wars are good, and easy to win".

Mr Zhang said the correct way to deal with trade frictions is to open up access to each other's markets, expand the economic pie and find mutually acceptable solutions.

A former Chinese ambassador to the United States, Mr Zhang said the common interests of the two nations far outweigh the differences, and that cooperation is the only correct choice for both sides.

"Both sides should objectively and accurately view each other's strategic intentions and grasp the development direction of the relations between the two countries," he said.

"If policies are formulated on the basis of wrong judgements or assumptions, the relations between the two countries will be harmed and consequences unwanted by either party will be brought to bear."