The verbal confrontation between President-elect Donald Trump and the Chinese government escalated on Monday, as China responded harshly to attacks by Trump on its economic and security positions.
The exchange signaled a new and potentially more adversarial relationship between the world’s two largest economies, as Trump moves to follow through on his campaign-trail promises to challenge China’s trade and currency policies.
Chinese officials late Friday and early Saturday played down Trump’s precedent-breaking phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, which a transition official said had been arranged by Bob Dole, the former Republican senator and presidential nominee. The call went beyond pleasantries and included a discussion about China and stability in the Asia-Pacific, according to a person familiar with the call. The Chinese directed their ire at Taiwan and not at Trump.
But they signaled their displeasure with a series of Twitter posts Trump leveled at China over the weekend, as he criticized its currency policies and military presence in the South China Sea.
In a packed press briefing Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested that Beijing had made its unhappiness directly known to members of Trump’s team.
The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s leading newspaper, said in a front-page commentary in Monday’s overseas editions that “Trump and his transition team ought to recognize that creating trouble for China-U.S. relations is just creating trouble for the U.S. itself.” It criticized Trump’s tweets for portraying the phone call “as not a big deal” and warned that if such “petty tricks” are allowed to go unanswered, Beijing could expect to see more of these provocations once he’s in office.