China is now officially part of the anti-Trump resistance.
Readers will recall that on Saturday, among the various responses by Chinese officials to the launch of trade war by the US (and instant retaliation by China), we quoted Frank Ning, chairman of state-owned Sinochem Group, who said that “what Trump is doing is more than crazy” in reference to Trump’s tariffs. “The biggest victim from a trade war will be the one who initiates trade protectionism,” Ning said at the APEC China CEO Forum in Beijing.
But the punchline was Ning’s closing remarks, in which he cited Michelle Obama’s 2016 line from the last U.S. presidential election campaign that “When they go low, we go high“, a phrase which was subsequently adopted by Hillary Clinton (We also wondered if Ning was aware that the extensive use of that line as part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the 2016 elections ended badly for the Democrats).
Well, fast forward just a few days to today, when China has decided to double down on what ended up being a losing campaign slogan, and when assistant minister for China’s Ministry of Commerce, Li Chenggang, commenting on the latest trade escalation at a forum in Beijing today, said that in trade “they go low, we go high.” Which of course makes absolutely no sense, because just minutes later an official from China’s Commerce Ministry reiterated that China will take countermeasures, which – for anyone confused – means that when “they go low, we will go just as low if not lower.“
Chnggang wasn’t done with the bizarrely nonsensical verbal diarrhea, and said that the latest round of proposed US tariffs on $200bn in Chinese goods “harms the WTO trade order” that the US is “escalating” the trade tension, that “tariffs disrupt globalization” and concluded that the global investment environment is seeing its “darkest hour.”
And while nobody has expressly stated what they will be, both a Chinese Commerce Ministry Official and a PBOC adviser, i.e. the guys in charge of yuan devaluation and dumping Treasuries, said China is consider countermeasures.
And while we await the official MofCom response, due later today (as previewed earlier), according to Suan Teck Kin, head of research at United Oferseas Bank, China may retaliate by imposing higher tariffs on U.S. products – i.e., more than 10%, instead of targeting a greater amount of US exports as those simply don’t exist – so it can match the proposed 10% tariffs on $200b of Chinese imports. Suan also said that China may also limit U.S. service exports, worth more than $50b per year, in terms of tourism, education and banking services.
Ultimately, as we just said minutes ago, the uncertainty for the market is how China will retaliate: “Whichever way, the markets will take it negatively after the calm over the past few days.” Suan concluded.