US President-Elect Donald Trump's proposed trade policies could significantly damage sales of the iPhone in China, according to an editorial from a state-controlled Chinese newspaper.
The warning comes from Communist party-run publication Global Times, which stated that Trump's pledges to "Make America Great Again" could prompt "countermeasures" from the Chinese government, which in turn would have a significant knock-on effect on tech giants such as Apple, Boeing and US automotive companies currently exporting their products to China.
While the editorial deems the scenario unlikely and possibly "a trap set up by some American media to trip up the new president," it states that should Trump move to impose an incendiary 45% tariff on imports from China – an economic policy repeatedly referenced in the race for the White House – then the Chinese government would opt for a "tit-for-tat approach" that could "paralyze" US-China trade.
"A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus," stated the paper. "US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US.
"If Trump wrecks Sino-US trade, a number of US industries will be impaired. Finally the new president will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence and bear all the consequences."
Despite a decline of around 30% in 2016, China is still Apple's third-largest territory for product sales, raking in close to $9bn in revenue in Q4. Apple also relies in part on Chinese labour for production of the iPhone via Taiwan-headquartered firms such as Foxconn and Pegatron.
With Chinese smartphone makers like Huawei, Xiaomi, ZTE and more also looking to make strides in the lucrative US market, Trump's promised tariffs on imported products and insistence that American multinationals bring their manufacturing efforts back to US shores has the potential to cause widespread disruption in the mobile sphere.
However, the editorial largely discounts that Trump's rhetoric will come to pass. "Trump cannot change the pattern of interests between China and the US," the paper writes. "The gigantic China-US trade is based on mutual benefits and a win-win situation."
Global Times also notes that "even as president, Trump can exert limited influence" on trade tariffs due to pre-existing restrictions.
"The greatest authority a US president has is to impose tariffs of up to 15 percent for 150 days on all imported goods and the limit can only be broken on the condition that the country is declared to be in a state of emergency. Other than that, a US president can only demand a tariff increase on individual commodities."