Taking on Beijing in areas such as intellectual property rights could lead to a downward spiral in relations
Moves by Donald Trump to confront China on trade would elicit a very aggressive response, a former top US trade negotiator has predicted, as Beijing said an upcoming visit from the US president would help map out the next half century of ties between the worlds top two economies.
There has been speculation since last week that Trump who is due to travel to China this year is preparing to launch a potentially incendiary investigation into its alleged abuse of intellectual property rights.
After Chinas decision to back a UN security council resolution against North Korea on Saturday, some reports suggested that inquiry might have been put on ice. The Financial Times called the anticipated move the trade diplomacy equivalent of a wooden club and warned it could provoke a full-blown trade war.
When China is displeased with US actions you see China act in ways that are very aggressive, designed to intimidate, designed to force the US to back down, said the veteran lawyer, who negotiated Chinas 2001 entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with its then premier Zhu Rongji.
The US rarely backs down, which is absolutely correct it should not. But this is Chinas way: it bullies in situations like this.
Barshefsky, who is now a senior international partner at the US law firm WilmerHale, said it was unclear what measures the Trump administration might take against Beijing but she did not expect the White House to cave in to Chinese pressure.
Then the question is: What is the next move? And, How much more heated does this get? And, Does it engender a downward spiral?