President-elect Donald Trump’s threats against China and its policies could ultimately hurt Apple, the Chinese government said on Monday.
The Global Times, a state-run news agency in China, on Monday issued its strongest rebuke of Trump and his policies, saying that if he “wrecks Sino-U.S. trade,” several U.S. industries could be “impaired.” The news outlet, which called Trump “naive,” signaled Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone sales could be targeted by the Chinese government.
“China will take a tit-for-tat approach then,” the Global Times threatens in its editorial. “A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. U.S. auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and U.S. soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S.”
Trump was one of the most outspoken critics of trade with China during the protracted Presidential campaign. He said on numerous occasions that China was acting unfairly in its trade dealings with the U.S. and said he would label the government as a “currency manipulator” when he becomes President. Trump said earlier this year that he could impose expensive tariffs on Chinese imports and has called the Chinese government the world’s biggest thief.
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While China has not said that it will definitely engage in activities that could hurt American companies, there’s little stopping it from doing so. China, after all, has an iron-like grip on the trade in its country and has banned several American companies from its borders, including Google, Facebook, and others. Limiting sales on iPhones, then, wouldn’t be much of a stretch.
For affected companies, China trouble could be disconcerting. The country has a massive middle class that’s anxiously demanding the latest and greatest products. American companies have generated massive sums of revenue in the country despite trade regulations and continue to believe China will be critical to their growth and profit in the future.
Apple, one of the companies China cited in its editorial on Monday, last quarter generated nearly $9 billion in revenue in the country. While that figure was down 30% year-over-year, during an earnings call with investors and analysts, CEO Tim Cook said he believes China will continue to play an integral role in his company’s operation in the coming years.
American presidents have for years criticized China for some of its trade policies, but none have gone so far as to impose the expensive tariff on the country’s goods Trump has floated. Trump, though, has said that he would be acting in the best interests of the American people by taking a tougher stance against China.
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There has been some debate over how much influence a President Trump could actually have over trade between the countries. Even the Global Times acknowledged that in its editorial, saying that even a President Trump “can exert limited influence” on what it believes is a mutually beneficial and “win-win” relationship for both countries.
Still, the Global Times ends its editorial with a prediction on how Trump could be viewed if he engages in a trade war with China, questioning if the U.S. media is attempting to bait Trump into a mistake.
“The new president will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence and bear all the consequences,” the Global Times predicts, adding it’s “very suspicious the trade war scenario is a trap set up by some American media to trip up the new president.”