China Could Target US Firms, Debt if Trump Plays Hardball - NBC 10 Philadelphia
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.

    Reported Plan Targeting Transgender People Sparks Fury

    [NATL] Reported Trump Administration Plan Targeting Transgender People Sparks Fury

    The Trump administration may be considering redefining gender as an unchangeable condition determined solely by a person's biology, according to a leaked memo draft obtained by The New York Times.

    (Published Monday, Oct. 22, 2018)

    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.

    Senators Vow to Act If Khashoggi Killed by Saudis

    [NATL] Senators Vow to Act If Khashoggi Killed by Saudis

    Some members of Congress say the U.S. must act against Saudi Arabia if the country's leaders are responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but they differ on exactly what that action would entail.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018)

    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.

    The Opioid Crisis: By the Numbers

    [NATL] The Opioid Crisis: By the Numbers

    A study of the opioid epidemic reveals some disturbing numbers.

    (Published Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018)

    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.

    Pompeo Visits Saudi Arabia With Concerns Over Missing Writer

    [NATL] Pompeo Visits Saudi Arabia With Concerns Over Missing Journalist

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Tuesday after concerns of missing journalist Jamal Kashoggi prompted calls for an investigation into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Kashoggi was last seen. Kashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was a frequent critic of the prince. 

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018)

    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.