Trump has been critical of China and accused the world's second largest economy of manipulating its currency, threatened to levy as much as 45 percent tariffs on Chinese imports and held a telephone conversation with the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, a move Beijing saw as a threat to its "One-China" policy. He also appointed notable China critics Peter Navarro and Robert Lighthizer to his cabinet.
On Wednesday, at his Senate confirmation hearing, Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson said China should be denied access to islands it has built on the contested South China Sea.
However, at his first press conference of the year on Wednesday, Trump did not provide any new insight into what the actual U.S. policy stance toward China will look like under his administration.
Most market commentators do not expect the U.S. to impose a flat 45 percent tariff across all Chinese imports - not only would it provoke a reaction from China, it would also make a lot of domestically-consumed goods more expensive for the U.S. consumers and reduce their spending power.
DBS' Lim said Trump would likely be selective about the tariffs - and that he could not back away entirely from the very "hawkish" stance he took on China with trade.
But that could also mean China might decide to call out Trump's bluff regarding the hard-line approach, according to Lim.
"I'll call your bluff and let's see what your next card is, and what do you do for an encore? Tweet again?"
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