A unified message to Trump from China’s bigwigs at Davos: avoid a trade war

A united front.
A united front.
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni, EPA/Laurent Gillieron
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Chinese president Xi Jinping became globalization’s most vocal champion with his speech at Davos earlier this week. Though he didn’t name Donald Trump in his speech, two of China’s richest men echoed Xi’s message, and aimed it squarely at the incoming US president.

“Pursuing protection is just like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, so are light and air,” Xi said at the World Economic Forum on Jan. 17. “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.”

Trump has previously threatened to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports, and to label China a currency manipulator— although he has backed away (paywall) from his promise that he would apply that label on his first day in office.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma—who promised to create one million American jobs in five years in a meeting with Trump earlier this month—said during a panel discussion yesterday (Jan. 18) that he didn’t specifically discuss trade issues with Trump in their meeting, but that he respects Trump’s right to speak his mind freely. However, during the Q&A portion of the panel discussion, Ma made his feelings known about the prospect of a trade conflict between the two countries.

“China and the US will never have a trade war,” he said. “I think we should give president-elect Donald Trump some time. He’s open minded, he’s listening.”

China’s richest man Wang Jianlin shared the same sentiment as Ma. “Let’s leave the entertainment industry alone, no war please,” said the founder of Wanda Group, which owns AMC theaters and Hollywood studios including Legendary Entertainment, during a Q&A session on the same day. Wang said he has asked Christopher Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, to carry this very message to Trump.

“If China were to retaliate, it would be bad for both parties. I do not wish to see that scenario materializing,” Wang added.