"It's going to get worse before it gets better," said Curtis Chin, an Asia fellow at the Milken Institute, a think tank.
Talks to end the ongoing trade dispute are believed to have hit a roadblock, and relations between the two economic superpowers deteriorated earlier this month when U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he would increase tariffs on $200 billion in goods from 10% to 25%. China responded by upping the tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods.
However, tensions between China and the U.S. — as well as other parts of the world — did not develop just recently and will take time to work through, Chin told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
"It's really reflecting an adjustment of China's rise and how China behaves when it's no longer that poor nation of 20, 30 years ago, when maybe some of the things it was doing were more accepted of a developing nation," said Chin, who served formerly as U.S. ambassador to the Asian Development Bank.
As one of the world's largest economies now, "some of the things we might have accepted from a poorer nation maybe no longer fit the bill in terms of where China should fit into this region," he said.
While many on both sides are likely looking for a face-saving solution to the trade war, there are longstanding concerns that not just the U.S. but many other countries and companies have had about China's actions over the years, he said.
"If we look at China's behavior, it does so many things to lift up their people, but it is also known as a vindictive nation, (it does) so many things to countries and companies they don't necessarily like," said Chin.
On Monday, China's Tencent Video delayed the broadcast of the "Game of Thrones" finale, according to an official message published by the online streaming site on Monday, prompting uproar among fans of the popular American TV series in the country, spurring speculation that the delay was due to political tensions.
"It shows you that China is ramping up its nationalism as it tries to think through how to deal with this U.S.-China back and forth right now," said Chin.
"Perhaps one more signal they are sending is stopping one of the biggest U.S. exports, (which) clearly is film and television," he added.
Tencent did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.
Chinese President "Xi Jinping needs to show he is in charge, that there's stability in that nation as he continues to struggle to revive that better life for all Chinese," Chin added.
- CNBC's Holly Ellyatt and Reuters contributed to this story.