China has reacted nervously to Donald Trump’s inauguration, with one state-controlled media outlet warning of “dramatic changes” and “fires” being lit by the new US administration.
International relations experts in China suggested the time had come for Beijing to make preparations for a sharp deterioration in relations with Washington.
His inauguration speech did not directly reference the country, but he spoke about foreign industries being “enriched” at the expense of American jobs.
Speaking about the inauguration of Mr Trump, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Sino-American ties “have had their ups and downs, but they have continued to move forward”.
She maintained they would “push forward from this new starting point to make greater progress".
However, other state-sanctioned voices were more damning.
“Frictions between the US and its allies, and trade tensions between the US and China seem inevitable within the four years ahead,” said an editorial by the Global Times, a pro-government tabloid newspaper with a reputation for populist rhetoric.
Adding that “dramatic changes” were on the way, the newspaper continued: “The Trump administration will be igniting many ‘fires’ on its front door and around the world. Let's wait and see when it will be China's turn.”
Chinese experts on their country’s relations with the US appeared equally bleak about the future.
“A trade war between China and the US seems inevitable,” Pang Zhongying, of Renmin University, told the South China Morning Post.
“Beijing should make some worst-case scenario planning, even though the development may not be as bad as we have expected.”
International relations professor Yu Xiang said Mr Trump’s speech was “aggressive” as he urged the Chinese government "not to underestimate the challenges and difficulties we will be facing in Sino-US relations".
Other analysts thought increasing economic and trading difficulties could cause instability and security problems in the Asia-Pacific region.
The possibility of a real conflict was also hinted at by the China Daily, which said this would “only create more defence orders for local companies”.
It argued that an economic clash could benefit China in some ways and not be in the interest of the US.
“Trade wars backfire easily, especially for a more advanced economy,” the Daily’s editorial said.
“If heavy protection is required for US manufacturers to make the same goods as can be made equally well in China or in Mexico, then it will hurt, rather than benefit, the competitiveness of the US economy.”
However, other outlets were more guarded, reflecting the official line.
The state-owned Xinhua news agency, the country’s largest media outlet, played on Mr Trump’s business savvy as it extolled the economic benefits of working with China.
“He will soon realise that leaders of the two countries must use more mature and effective ways to communicate than trading barbs via Twitter,” an editorial said.
“Cooperation requires respect for each other's bottom line and prudence not to violate it.
“Among all his alternatives, the least desirable for Trump is to act on his previous threats to slap punitive tariffs on his country's largest trading partner and label China a ‘currency manipulator’, as protectionism only stirs up retaliation.”
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