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China Warns of ‘Tit for Tat’ on iPhone Sales if Trump Starts Trade War

Apple iPhones and other U.S. goods could suffer sales hits in China if president-elect Donald Trump goes through with his "naïve" plan of slapping a large import tariff on Chinese products, a state-backed newspaper warned on Sunday.

During his election campaign this year, Trump spoke of a 45 percent import tariff on all Chinese goods while failing to outline how it would work. Should any such policy come into effect, China will take a "tit-for-tat approach", according to an opinion piece in the Global Times, a newspaper backed by the Communist party.

Apple iPhone 7 mobile phones being sold. Getty Images.

"A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. U.S. auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and U.S. soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S.," the Global Times article read.

Apple has not responded to CNBC's request for comment.

But the Chinese newspaper was not convinced Trump would go through with his suggestion, calling it "merely campaign rhetoric" and questioning its legal validity. U.S. law dictates that presidents can only impose tariffs of no more than 15 percent for a maximum of 150 days on all imports,

As an example of earlier tariff-tit-for-tats, the Global Times pointed toward the 35 percent tariffs imposed in 2009 on Chinese tires by outgoing U.S. president Barack Obama. China retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. car parts and chicken.

"Both China and the U.S. suffered losses as a result. From then on, the Obama administration waged no trade war against China. If Trump imposes a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports, China-U.S. trade will be paralyzed," the Global Times said.

The opinion piece said Trump was a "shrewd businessman" and would not be naïve, but, if he was serious with the policy, it would affect a number of U.S. industries.

"The new president will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence and bear all the consequences. We are very suspicious the trade war scenario is a trap set up by some American media to trip up the new president," the Global Times wrote.

America's relationship with China is in focus after Trump slammed the world's second-largest economy during his campaign. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump spoke over the phone on Sunday.

"During the call, the leaders established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another, and President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward," a statement from Trump's presidential transition team said.