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China is unlikely to take trade diktats from President-elect Donald Trump and instead use ample tools from multilateral trade rules to financial resources to fight back, a leading economist said.


"We will see some sort of action and the risk is that even small actions—given that the China may push back very hard—could very quickly escalate into a tit-for-tat battle that erupts into a trade war," Cornell University economist Eswar Prasad told CNBC.

康奈尔大学经济学家Eswar Prasad对CNBC表示,“我们将会看到特朗普政府的某些举动,但即使是很小的动作,也存在着中国可能进行强烈反击,也可能很快升级成为一个以牙还牙的战斗,最终爆发成贸易战的风险”。

"The notion that the U.S. needs to push back against unfair trade is something that is crucial for Trump to establish some credibility with some actions."
-Eswar Prasad, Cornell University economist

-康奈尔大学经济学家Eswar Prasad

Already a verbal sparring war has carried on in the transition to Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20.


This week, Trump's pick ofRobert Lighthizer, an official in the Reagan administration and harsh critic of China's trade practices, to be his chief trade negotiator, also caught Beijing's official notice in standard diplomatic language at a daily briefing in Beijing by the foreign ministry spokesman.

本周,特朗普提名Robert Lighthizer为首席贸易代表,他曾在前里根政府里任职,也是中国贸易实践的尖锐批评者。这也在北京举行的外交部每日例行发布会上引起了外交部新闻发言人的注意。

"As has been repeated multiple times and proven by facts, China-U.S. economic cooperation is in its essence for mutual benefit and win-win results," China's foreign ministry said in a statement released late Wednesday.


"After years of development, China and the U.S. have been closely bonded by converging interests. For issues that crop up in our economic relations, proper solutions shall be found on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment. China and the U.S. should work together to ensure the sound and steady development of bilateral economic ties, as this serves the common interests of the two countries and peoples."


Matt Mawson | Getty Images
So what can China do if the diplomatic route doesn't pan out?


As the second largest holder of U.S. Treasurys, China has a lot of leverage against the world's largest economy, but it's unlikely to use that as a tool against the U.S. since there are few other options for its money, said Prasad.


"The far more potent weapon that the Chinese have is to use either overt or covert measures to restrict the access of American companies to the Chinese market, which is still a pretty fast growing market," he told CNBC's Squawk Box.


"(They can also) disrupt the supply chains that many Americans manufacturers have come to rely on and of which China is a critical component, so that really is one way China can inflict pain on U.S. businesses and on the U.S. economy," he added.

“(中国也可以)打乱许多美国生产商已经依赖的供应链,在这一供应链上中国是关键的组成部分,所以这确实是中国可以伤害美国企业和美国经济的一种办法。” 他补充道。

"This could quickly backfire on Mr. Trump and the U.S.economy."