“The good times are over”: Chinese fear Trump impact on economy

Many of his fellow citizens still admire Donald Trump, but Chinese exporter Cai Jipeng has been dreading inauguration day.

Cai’s business, based in Qingdao, a port city of north-east China, specializes in doing business with the United States. He exports goods such as plush toys, electrical parts and car mounts to destinations all over the United States.

The 53-year-old has travelled between the two countries for more than a decade, employing around 60 Chinese staff and working with various US agencies, but whether he can continue is uncertain.

That’s because Trump has promised to hike up import duties on Chinese-made goods after he becomes president, and has also declared China a currency manipulator.

“We are tracking every day what Donald Trump has said about China. Of course we are afraid,” Cai told dpa.

China’s economy saw 6.7-per-cent growth in 2016, meeting the country’s target for the year, official figures said Friday.

The government’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for 2016 was 6.5 to 7 per cent.

Other recent economic data shows domestic consumption is growing, which is important as China hopes to transition from a manufacturing-based economy to one based on services, technology and innovation.

“But China’s exports already dropped last year due to weak world trade. With Trump as an opponent, it will be [worse],” said Zheng Chaoyu, professor of economics at the People’s University in Beijing.

“I do not think the gates to the US market will remain open after Trump is president. The good times are now over,” Zheng told dpa.

China’s foreign trade surplus fell by 3.35 trillion yuan (486 billion US dollars) in 2016, down 9.1 per cent from a year earlier, according to Chinese customs data.

“Sluggish global demand and anti-globalization sentiment will continue to cloud Asia’s export outlook, including China’s,” a recent report from ANZ Banking Group said.

Top Chinese officials have also admitted that a Trump presidency will only exacerbate existing problems.

The economy will face “greater pressure in 2017 because of changes in global politics, but authorities will ensure quality and efficiency of growth will improve,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech in Beijing last week.

General Administration of Customs spokesperson Huang Songping also said last week that Trump could limit the growth of China’s exports by imposing protectionist measures.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China earlier warned that Beijing will likely respond if Trump imposes restrictions on trade or investment.

China already has initiated some measures, such as imposing higher anti-dumping duties on US agricultural chemicals, according to Lester Ross, a chamber board member.

However, analysts say Beijing would much rather avoid escalating trade tensions.

Chinese president Xi Jinping said in a speech in the Swiss town of Davos on Tuesday that a “trade war” would harm all countries involved.

A “clever businessman” like Trump should not risk it all for a test of power with China, said Cai.

The exporter said he would prefer that neither government interferes with his business.

By Joanna Chiu and Joern Petring

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