Beijing's decision to target U.S. soybeans in its new tariffs is a political maneuver designed to hit President Donald Trump's support base, according to Jim Sutter, CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council.
The world's second-largest economy, announced on Wednesday a 25 percent levy on $50 billion in U.S. imports, including soybeans, corn, aircraft, cars and whiskey. That was in response to Washington's decision to impose a similar scale hike on Chinese goods.
The Chinese are looking "where could they have an impact with many people who may have the ear of President Trump ... the farmers are certainly that," Sutter told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.
Many farmers supported Trump in the 2016 election, Sutter added, so Beijing saw an opportunity.
"I think [China] wanted to do something that would get the attention of the farmers, and then farmers will put some pressure on the administration," he said. "That's certainly happening."