In his first address to Congress, United States President Donald Trump stayed true to many of the views that fueled those who helped him rise to victory. He promised to create new jobs by boosting infrastructure and alluded to restoring America’s edge in trade by imposing taxes and tariffs on imports from other countries.
“Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes – but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing,” Trump said.
But while Trump’s words gained applause from supporters in attendance, his language did not ring well with trade officials in China.
Huo Jianguo, vice-chairman of the Ministry of Commerce’s China Society for WTO Studies, warns China should be mentally and practically prepared for a trade war with the U.S. that is only a matter of time.
He says Trump’s views on policies of protectionism, which his voters expect him to deliver on, is getting Chinese government officials on the defensive.
He notes, however, that although Trump’s anti-China rhetoric has publicly stayed in tune, he has yet to impose his proposed 45% border tax on Chinese imports, and he may still be willing to stay true to the One-China policy.
The U.S. president has also had a phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and a face-to-face meeting is expected between the Communist leader and the negotiator-in-chief.
Still, Huo says China must remain vigilant.
It’s not a surprising stance for Beijing to take considering the uncertainty and unpredictability that seems to surround Trump and his inner circle.
“He isn’t showing friendship, nor weakness. He has been constantly testing Beijing’s bottom line,” Huo said.