Especially with the rise of a more authoritarian Beijing under the leadership of Xi Jinping, a growing number of trade experts feel that the United States needs a more equitable relationship China — though it's impossible to know if that viewpoint is in the majority.
"I think we're headed into a very transactional period in the relationship [with China], and that's not necessarily a bad thing," said Charles Freeman III, managing director at Bower Group Asia and former assistant U.S. trade representative for China affairs. He said Navarro's "work has become more nuanced over the years, but has continued to maintain a perspective of winning and losing to China."
CNN, citing several sources, reported late Wednesday that the Trump transition team is discussing the possibility of an early executive action imposing tariffs on foreign imports.
There appears to be an ascendant school of thought among economists and political scientists from across the spectrum that a realignment between the United States and China — of some still-undetermined sort — may be desirable.
"This situation is out of balance and needs to be corrected," said Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. "I know [Navarro]. I've gone to events with him. He's not a crazy person. He does believe there's something deeply imbalanced."
On the other hand, some experts point out that recreating the trade relationship with China is much more complicated than the incoming administration may appreciate. And China could "hit back on trade" and has already indicated a willingness to do so, Ian Bremmer, president of consulting and analysis firm Eurasia Group, told CNBC on Thursday.
Potentially adding some nuance to Trump's trade policy is the selection of the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, as the U.S. ambassador to China. Branstad has called Xi a "long-time friend." Billionaire Carl Icahn, who has also been named to Trump's administration, is a strong free trade proponent.