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China threatens to cut iPhone sales if Trump declares a trade war

State-run newspaper says increased tariffs could leave trade 'paralyzed' between China and the US

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

China's state-run newspaper says the government would respond with "countermeasures" if President-elect Donald Trump starts a trade war against the country, warning that the sales of iPhones and US cars would suffer a "setback." In an editorial published on Sunday, the Global Times said it would be "naive" for Trump to follow through on his campaign promises to implement a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the US and to declare the country a currency manipulator.

Trump repeatedly targeted China during his presidential campaign, vowing to take a tougher stance on trade in the hopes of reviving manufacturing in the US. In its editorial, the Global Times dismissed the notion that Trump alone could implement a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports, though it warned that any protectionist measure could leave trade "paralyzed."

"China will take a tit-for-tat approach."

"China will take a tit-for-tat approach then," the editorial reads. "A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US."

As president, Trump would be able to implement tariffs on specific goods, though he can impose a tariff of no more than 15 percent on all goods — and only for 150 days — unless a state of emergency is declared. Trump has dismissed concerns from economists and policymakers over a potential trade war with China, the country's biggest trading partner, saying at a June rally: "We already have a trade war. And we’re losing, badly."

As with many of his other campaign promises, it's unclear whether the president-elect will be as aggressive against China when he gets to office. In its editorial, the Global Times said that "as a shrewd businessman," Trump "will not be so naïve."

"If Trump wrecks Sino-US trade, a number of US industries will be impaired," the paper said. "Finally the new president will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence and bear all the consequences."

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with Trump on a phone call Monday, telling the president-elect that "cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the United States," according to state-run media. The two men agreed to maintain close communication and meet "at an early date," Chinese media reported.