China media warns of 'showdown with US' over Trump's pick

Choice of hardline trade adviser raises alarm; Beijing stresses bilateral trade benefits both

Mr Navarro

BEIJING • Chinese state media yesterday expressed alarm and warned of a "showdown with the US" after President-elect Donald Trump named Mr Peter Navarro, an economist who has urged a hard line against China, to head a new White House National Trade Council.

The Ministry of Commerce meanwhile stressed that China-United States trade benefits both, and warned Washington's new administration against moves that may hurt bilateral trade ties.

Mr Navarro is an academic and one-time investment adviser who has authored books such as Death By China: How America Lost its Manufacturing Base.

The book was made into a documentary about Beijing's desire to become the dominant economic and military power in Asia.

"That individuals such as Navarro who have a bias against China are being picked to work in leading positions in the next administration is no laughing matter," the official English-language China Daily said in an editorial.

"The new administration should bear in mind that with economic and trade ties between the world's two largest economies now the closest they have ever been, any move to damage the win-win relationship will only result in a loss for both sides."

On Thursday, China's Foreign Ministry saidit was playing close attention to Mr Trump's transition team and policy direction, and that cooperation between the two countries was the only correct choice.

Mr Trump, a Republican, made trade a centrepiece of his presidential campaign and railed against what he said were bad deals the US had made with other countries. He has threatened to hit Mexico and China with high tariffs once he takes office on Jan 20.

CNN reported on Thursday that the transition team was discussing tariffs of as high as 10 per cent to spur US manufacturing.

Mr Shen Danyang, spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce, told a news briefing in Beijing yesterday that the US will continue to see mutual benefits from trade with China, and said the pattern of deepening cooperation between the two countries on trade will continue.

"Regardless of changes in the US government - president, commerce secretary, trade representative - common interests (between the US and China) are greater than differences," he said.

But the US needs to be careful not to repeat past mistakes, Mr Shen said. China opposes the idea of someone making others "take medicine", when he himself is sick.

"This has happened in the past and could happen in the future," Mr Shen added, without elaborating.

Tough trade measures against China are often met with retaliatory actions, including countervailing tariffs or fines against US companies in China.

The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, said Mr Trump's decision to pick Mr Navarro was "by no means a positive signal".

"China needs to face up to the reality that the Trump team maintains a hard-line attitude towards China. It must discard any illusions and make full preparations for any offensive move by the Trump government," it said in an editorial.

"China is powerful enough to withstand pressures from the Trump government. Beijing will get used to the tensions between the two countries.

"If Washington dares to provoke China over its core interests, Beijing won't fear setting up a showdown with the US, pressuring the latter to show respect to China."

Mr Navarro, 67, a professor at University of California, Irvine, advised Mr Trump during his campaign.

As well as describing what he sees as America's losing economic war with China, Mr Navarro has highlighted concerns over environmental issues related to Chinese imports and the theft of US intellectual property.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2016, with the headline China media warns of 'showdown with US' over Trump's pick. Subscribe