"A lot of people are simply waiting," he added. Locke was ambassador to China from 2011 to 2014 in the Obama administration.
Trump has ratcheted up the rhetoric against the world's second largest economy in the last few week and has appointed China hawks into his administration, raising questions about his intents.
"He continues to call China a currency manipulator when in fact China is really trying to prop up their currency to prevent outflows of capital from China," said Locke.
During his campaign, Trump said he would China label a "currency manipulator" from his first day in office. He has also said he would slap a 45 percent tariff on all Chinese imports into the U.S.
Locke is joining the chorus of voices cautioning against a tit-for-tat.
"Millions of jobs in America depend on selling made-in-USA goods and services to China, and of tens of millions of jobs in China depend on selling high quality products to America, so if we end up in a trade war it's going to cost the American consumer more money on what they buy every day and it's also going to result in a loss of American jobs," he cautioned.