"It is certainly susceptible to weakness if a hard line is taken," noted Patrick Bennett, a foreign exchange strategist at CIBC, on Tuesday.
He pointed to the yuan's drop since Trump's election win as "moving counter to the wishes or theme of the Trump policy," which complained that the renminbi was being manipulated lower.
Bennett attributed the yuan's decline to the dollar's rise on the likely market impact of Trump's domestic policies, adding that he expected the renminbi would continue to lose ground against the greenback amid capital outflows from the mainland.
But he also said he didn't think Trump would take too hard a line.
"Heightened protectionism would be no good for anyone," he said.
However, there have been signs that Trump may not be softening his rhetoric.
On January 2, Trump indicated in a tweet that he remained concerned over China's policies, saying "China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade."
Other analysts have taken the threat of protectionism more seriously.
"The biggest macro and market downside risks from a Trump presidency arguably derive from his trade agenda – such as his pledges to withdraw from the Trans-pacific Partnership, declare China a currency manipulator and lift tariffs. A new era of protectionism would be negative for the global economy," Jeremy Lawson, chief economist at Standard Life Investments, said in an email note dated Wednesday.
"We believe the most likely scenario is that heightened rhetoric is used to secure better access to foreign markets for U.S. companies and incentives to keep production at home," he added. "However, the views of Trump's nominees for key trade policy roles in his administration shows that there is a significant risk that Trump means what he says."
Trump has said he intended to nominate lawyer Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative. A proponent of a tough U.S. position on China, Lighthizer has negotiated restrictions on steel imports and was deputy U.S. trade representative in the Reagan administration.
Lighthizer's positions were similar to Trump's pick to head the newly created National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, author of the book "Death by China."
—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1
Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.