China Could Target US Firms, Debt if Trump Plays Hardball - NBC New York
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's presidency

China Could Target US Firms, Debt if Trump Plays Hardball

Trump has threatened higher tariffs on $150 billion of Chinese goods in response to complaints Beijing violates its free-trade commitments

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    China Could Target US Firms, Debt if Trump Plays Hardball
    AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
    In this May 4, 2018, photo, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, second from left, leaves his hotel in Beijing for trade negotiations with Chinese officials. In a looming trade war between the world's two largest economies, American companies in China may have a bull's-eye on their backs.

    In a looming trade war between the world's two largest economies, American companies in China may have a bull's-eye on their backs.

    The Trump administration is pushing China to cut its trade surplus with the United States by $200 billion by the end of 2020 and give up policies that favor domestic companies — the core of Beijing's state-led economic model.

    As the two sides exchange threats of tariff hikes, their lopsided trade balance means China will run out of imports for retaliation before President Donald Trump does.

    But Beijing has other ways to inflict pain. Chief among those is harassing American companies that make autos, operate restaurant chains, sell computer software and do other business in China's heavily regulated economy.

    Trump Doesn't See White Nationalism as a Rising Threat

    [NATL] Trump Doesn't See White Nationalism as a Rising Threat

    President Donald Trump on Friday declined to join expressions of concern about white nationalism, saying "I don't, really" when asked whether he thought it was a rising threat around the world.

    (Published Friday, March 15, 2019)

    Other possible options include selling U.S. government debt or disrupting diplomatic efforts over North Korea, but those would damage Beijing's own interests.

    Trump has threatened higher tariffs on $150 billion of Chinese goods in response to complaints Beijing violates its free-trade commitments by stealing or pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology.

    Beijing reacted to his first round with a $50 billion list including American aircraft, soybeans and pork for possible retaliation. If it raises that to match Trump's total, that would be nearly equal to China's 2017 imports of U.S. goods.

    The Commerce Ministry has warned that no option is off the table.

    TARGET AMERICAN COMPANIES
    Chinese regulators have wide discretion and an arsenal of tools to disrupt U.S. businesses from withholding licenses to launching tax, anti-monopoly or other investigations.

    The U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. might serve as an early example. China is the final major government withholding approval of Qualcomm's proposal for its $44 billion acquisition of rival NXP Semiconductors.

    CAIR Leader Calls for Trump to More Clearly Condemn Anti-Muslim Terrorism

    [NATL] CAIR Leader Calls for Trump to More Clearly Condemn Anti-Muslim Terrorism

    Niwad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, responded Friday to the terrorist attacks on mosques in New Zealand. He called on President Donald Trump to “condemn this, not only as a hate crime, but as a white supremacist terrorist attack.”

    (Published Friday, March 15, 2019)

    In April, the Commerce Ministry said Qualcomm's proposal "has difficulty" resolving concerns of Chinese anti-monopoly regulators. Qualcomm and NXP said April 19 that at the Chinese ministry's request, the companies withdrew and refiled an application for Beijing to clear the acquisition.

    China's entirely state-controlled media have encouraged consumer boycotts against Japanese, South Korean and other products during previous disputes with those governments.

    "China can harm the interests of the United States by limiting the operations of multinational corporations," said Jin Canrong, a foreign relations specialist at Beijing's Renmin University, in comments to the website wallstreetcn.com.

    Jin pointed to the example of South Korean retailer Lotte, whose business was destroyed by Beijing last year after it sold land to the Seoul government for an anti-missile system opposed by Chinese leaders.

    Beijing retaliated by closing most of Lotte's 99 supermarkets and other outlets in China. Seoul and Beijing later mended relations, but South Korean news reports said Lotte has given up on China and is trying to sell its stores.

    "Already we are hearing that approvals for some types of licenses for U.S. firms operating are being put on hold," the Eurasia Group said in a report.

    Beto O’Rourke Tells NBC Dallas-Fort Worth About Presidential Run

    [NATL-DFW] Beto O’Rourke Talks to NBC 5 About Presidential Run

    Beto O'Rourke is officially joining the 2020 race for the White House. After months of speculation, he announced his decision Thursday morning.

    (Published Thursday, March 14, 2019)

    FINANCIAL LEVERAGE
    Chinese commentators say Beijing has financial weapons, though using them would cost China's own economy and international standing.

    Nationalists point to China's $1.2 trillion holdings of U.S. government debt as leverage. But Beijing would suffer losses if it sold enough of that to influence U.S. debt financing costs. And there are few other places to store such vast foreign currency reserves.

    Beijing also could obstruct U.S. investment in China, wrote commentator Ren Zeping on money.163.com. But that also would impose a cost by worsening an investment slump Chinese leaders are trying to reverse.

    Regulators could depress the state-controlled exchange rate for China's yuan against the dollar. That could help Chinese exporters and make U.S. imports more expensive. But it would carry a political cost by hurting other trading partners and making Beijing look reckless, possibly destabilizing financial markets.

    DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE
    Beijing can appeal for support to U.S. allies that are miffed by Trump's "America first" approach and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate pact and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade agreement.

    Trump's unilateral actions have allowed China, the most-closed major economy, to position itself as a defender of free trade. That could help Beijing win over governments that have criticized Trump for acting outside the World Trade Organization.

    Beto O'Rourke Holds First Campaign Rally for 2020

    [NATL] Beto O'Rourke Holds First Campaign Rally for 2020

    Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke hit the campaign trail with his first stop at a coffeeshop in Keokuk, Iowa, the morning he announced his bid for the Oval Office. 

    (Published Thursday, March 14, 2019)

    China is a "central pillar" of the global trading system, "and we want to fully cooperate with China," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a visit to Beijing last month.

    Beijing also has potential support from American companies and business groups that have criticized Trump and favor globalization.

    More broadly, Chinese commentators have suggested Beijing also could disrupt diplomatic work over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs or other initiatives. But analysts say that would risk setting back work Chinese leaders see as a priority.