China on Tuesday stepped up criticism of the US as tensions between the world’s largest economies continued to escalate, blaming the US for the renewed escalation that has roiled global financial markets and saying the US has underestimated China’s resolve and ability to defend itself.
As Chinese and US officials continued to exchange harsh words, China needs to be prepared for a protracted war with countermeasures and long-term reform and opening-up efforts, analysts said on Tuesday.
Asked at a routine press briefing about the US threat to impose tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods, Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, did not mince words about China’s plan to fight back.
“When it comes to a trade war, China does not want to fight one or is willing to fight one, but China is also absolutely not afraid to fight one,” Geng said. “If someone has brought the fight to our doorsteps, we will fight to the end.”
Though the spokesperson did not specify measures, China appears to keep options open. Asked about claims in social media that China should stop purchasing US agricultural and energy goods and Boeing airplanes if it retaliates, Geng declined to comment about the report but also stopped short of issuing a denial.
US officials appear to be moving forward with a threat to impose tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods. They plan a public hearing on June 17.
China announced it will impose tariffs of between 5 percent and 25 percent on $60 billion in US products starting June 1 in response to the US decision to increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods.
China’s retaliation on Monday might have surprised US President Donald Trump and other US officials, who appeared to think that they could use tariffs to pressure China into signing an agreement, according to Wei Jianguo, a former Chinese vice commerce minister.
“I don’t think they thought about China’s will and resolve to defend its core national interests and major concerns, especially at the final stage,” Wei said. “They also haven’t considered China’s ability to stand up to pressure… and the reaction from US [consumers and companies].”
Geng also said that some in the US might have miscalculated the situation, continued to confuse the public, and asked for unreasonably higher prices. “So we would certainly push back against these claims,” Geng said.
US officials have claimed that China walked back on a “95 percent” done deal and blamed that for the escalation.
Citing previous cases where the US backtracked from deals, Geng said that the US cannot accuse China of walking back from its positions and promises.
Though both Chinese and US officials left some room for further talks, with Trump publically calling for a meeting with President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan in June and Chinese officials calling for the US to meet China halfway, no formal plan has been announced so far, leading some to believe this could be a prolonged trade war.
To prepare for a protracted war, analysts said, China must continue to carry out reforms and opening-up measures to boost market vitality and expand overseas markets for Chinese products to reduce reliance on the US market or any other single market.
“The reform and opening-up policy has been a magic key for China to address serious issues over the past 40 years. And a magic key is what we need to deal with the situation now,” said Cao Heping, an economics professor at Peking University, noting that more concrete actions are needed.
China has opened up more sectors to foreign investors, including finance, manufacturing and healthcare, and passed a new Foreign Investment Law to offer greater market access and better protection for foreign firms. It has cracked down on intellectual property rights violations and sought to increase foreign goods.
“The trade war has not changed and will not change China’s pace for further reform and opening-up,” Liu Ying, a research fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.