Chinese state media warns Trump of 'big sticks' if he seeks trade war

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Chinese state media warned U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that he'll be met with "big sticks" if he tries to ignite a trade war or further strain ties.

"There are flowers around the gate of China's Ministry of Commerce, but there are also big sticks hidden inside the door -- they both await Americans," the Communist Party's Global Times newspaper wrote in an editorial Thursday.

The article was published in response to Trump picking Robert Lighthizer, a former trade official in the Ronald Reagan administration who has criticized Beijing's trade practices, as U.S. trade representative.

The latest salvo from state-run outlets followed others aimed at Peter Navarro, a University of California at Irvine economics professor and critic of China's trade practices whom Trump named to head a newly formed White House National Trade Council. Those choices plus billionaire Wilbur Ross, the nominee for commerce secretary, will form an "iron curtain" of protectionism in Trump's economic and trade team, according to the paper.

The three share Trump's anti-globalization beliefs and seem unlikely to keep building the current trade order, it said, adding that they will be more interested in disrupting trade. Souring relations could have serious ramifications for the economies: Americans are the biggest buyers of exports from China, the world's largest trading nation.

Official media issued other recent warnings after the announcement about Navarro, saying he doesn't understand trade and will damage relations. An editorial in the state-run China Daily accused Navarro of "anti-China alarmism" and said appointing the "Death by China" author is another sign Trump seems intent on confrontation with China. An opinion column said he's "deaf and blind to the enormous win-win cooperation and potential of China-U.S. relations."

The Global Times English version said the U.S. will adopt reckless protectionist policies and that China is powerful enough to withstand pressures from the administration. "China needs to face up to the reality that the Trump team maintains a hard-line attitude," it said last month. "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."

The appointment of Navarro "increases the risk of tensions," according to Tom Orlik, chief Asia economist at Bloomberg Intelligence in Beijing, wrote in a December report. "Anti-trade measures may be more than just campaign talk," he said, citing Navarro's support in a Los Angeles Times column for Trump's proposal for 45 percent tariffs on Chinese products.

Navarro wrote in July for the paper that such a tariff is appropriate because of what he called export subsidies, currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and lax regulation.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday that the two nations must keep relations moving in the right direction.

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