China to the U.S.: Let's talk about trade

Globalization under attack. Can it survive?
Globalization under attack. Can it survive?

Donald Trump may be looking to pick a fight with China over trade. Beijing says it just wants to talk.

"In the China-U.S. economic and trade relationship, cooperation brings about benefits and confrontation brings about damage," Sun Jiwen, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce, told reporters on Thursday, seemingly seeking to defuse a growing verbal spat between the two countries.

"I believe that China and the U.S. will resolve problems through dialogue and consultation," he added.

His comments come a day before Trump is sworn in as U.S. president, and a day after Wilbur Ross, Trump's pick for commerce secretary, slammed China as "the most protectionist country of very large countries."

Ross pointed to accusations of China dumping excess steel and aluminum and Beijing's support for unprofitable state-owned enterprises.

Trump has also criticized China's trade policies, accusing the government of devaluing its currency and taxing U.S. products too heavily.

Related: 8 reasons why starting a trade war with China is a bad idea

China appears to be trying to avoid a confrontation.

"We are willing to work with the new U.S. administration to continue promoting the healthy and stable development of bilateral economic and trade relations to benefit peoples of both nations," said Sun.

China's President Xi Jinping defended free trade in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, saying "no one will emerge as a winner" in an international trade war.

"Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean you cannot escape from," Xi said.

Related: U.S. business cries foul on Xi's free trade talk

Not all Chinese voices are as measured. An editorial on Wednesday in the state-run, often provocative newspaper Global Times said China would not back down if a trade war with the U.S. did break out.

"If the Trump administration imposes punitive tariffs on Chinese goods, China will not hesitate to take revenge," the editorial said. "The arrogant Trump team has underestimated China's ability to retaliate."

-- Steven Jiang contributed reporting from Beijing

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