China's government appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday to avoid a "trade war" ahead of what the White House says is a possible announcement of an investigation into whether China is stealing U.S. technology.
An official told reporters the president would order his trade office on Monday to look into whether to launch an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 of possible Chinese theft of U.S. technology and intellectual property.
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"There is no future and no winner in a trade war and both sides will be the losers. As we have emphasized for many times, the nature of China-U.S. trade relations is mutual benefit and win-win," said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.
"Considering the importance of the China-U.S. relations, China is willing to make joint efforts with the United States to keep trade and economic relations on sustained, healthy and stable development on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit," Hua said.
Earlier Monday, a state newspaper, the China Daily, said Trump's possible decision to launch an investigation could "intensify tensions," especially over intellectual property.
A decision to use the law to rebalance trade with China "could trigger a trade war," said the commentary under the name of researcher Mei Xinyu of the ministry's International Trade and Economic Cooperation Institute.
"And the inquiry the U.S. administration has ordered into China's trade policies, if carried out, could intensify tensions, especially on intellectual property rights," the commentary said.
It gave no indication of how Beijing might respond but Chinese law gives regulators broad discretion over what foreign companies can do in China.
If an investigation begins, Washington could seek remedies either through the World Trade Organization or outside of it.
Previous U.S. actions directed at China under the 1974 law had little effect, said the China Daily. It noted that China has grown to become the biggest exporter and has the world's largest foreign exchange reserves.
"The use of Section 301 by the U.S. will not have much impact on China's progress toward stronger economic development and a better future," said the newspaper.