BEIJING – China said on Tuesday it was ready to meet the United States halfway to end ongoing tensions amid an escalating trade war between the two largest economies in the world.
But foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang warned that China’s determination should not been underestimated as the country was prepared to defend its interests and fight till the end if needed.
Geng justified Beijing’s decision to impose tariffs on imports worth $60 billion from the United States, in response to the latest round of tariffs announced by US President Donald Trump.
“China, by all means, doesn’t want or wish a trade war, but it is not afraid. If somebody brings a war to us we will have to fight it until the end,” Geng told reporters.
“Our position is very clear. We want to meet halfway. Our constructive attitude was praised but somebody misjudged our will to defend ourselves and tried to confuse public opinion,” Geng said in an apparent reference to Trump’s latest statements.
Trump had said on Monday that he was prepared to impose tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports and blamed Beijing for the impasse in the trade negotiations.
The Chinese spokesperson criticized the “maximum pressure” tactics by the US after the latest hike in tariffs ordered by Trump on Friday, which targets Chinese imports worth $200 billion.
“We advise the US to look at the reaction from the international community, listen to the voices of people from (different) sectors and calculate the losses and gains (to) get back on the right track,” Geng said, asking Washington to work with Beijing to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
After days of silence, the Chinese spokesperson also refuted allegations that Beijing had broken commitments made earlier when the trade deal had been almost finalized.
“It’s normal to have differences and that’s why we should continue talking. Our talks are still underway. How can one (side) accuse the other of breaking promises if there is no signed deal yet,” he said.
Geng alleged that it was the US which raised its demands during consultations after reaching a consensus earlier.
Asked if the new tariffs announced by Trump would affect the Chinese economy, Geng said the US should not worry about China as the latter’s business environment had been continuously improving for the last 40 years.
“We want to provide a more stable, transparent, fair and predictable environment for foreign businesses. China will continue opening up with new opportunities and contribute to the free trade regime and global growth,” the spokesperson said.
On Monday, the Chinese finance ministry announced in a statement on its website that the government would increase from next month various tariffs of up to 25, 20 and 15 percent on a total of 5,140 US products – a list largely consisting of items which have already been facing tariffs since autumn 2018.
These include liquefied natural gas, textiles, petrochemicals, meat and fruits.
The negotiations between China and the US to reach an agreement cooled on Friday after Washington began to apply the increase of 10 to 25 percent tariffs on goods imported from the Asian giant, breaking a truce of more than six months in the commercial dispute.
After returning from Washington for the latest round of talks, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He announced on Sunday that China continued to be “cautiously optimistic” about negotiations.
He said talks to settle the trade war – which until a few days ago seemed to be approaching the signing of an agreement – “have not collapsed” and would continue soon in Beijing.