BEIJING The chairman of China's biggest beverage maker, Hangzhou Wahaha Group, said the United States would suffer more in any trade war with China, with a loss of access to cheap Chinese-made goods hitting American wallets.
U.S. President Donald Trump had campaigned on a promise to confront China more aggressively on trade, including by levying new tariffs on goods from abroad and branding China a currency manipulator.
Beijing says it will work with Washington to resolve any trade disputes, but Chinese state media has warned of retaliation if Trump takes the first steps towards a trade war.
"The new American administration has threatened to launch a trade war, but in my view, they will suffer more from the war," Wahaha Chairman Zong Qinghou told reporters on the sidelines of China's annual parliament meeting on Tuesday.
"People will grumble about the (U.S.) government as domestic prices rise."
Zong, one of China's richest men, also predicted that the U.S. trade deficit with China would persist as long as Washington maintained "stupid" restrictions on high-tech exports to China.
The politically sensitive U.S.-China trade deficit stood at $347 billion last year.
China has long asked Washington to loosen its restrictions on exports of sensitive technology, arguing that it could cut its trade deficit by selling more of what China needs.
But the strict U.S. export controls against China on a range of products with both military and civilian uses, such as some computer processors and software, were implemented as a national security measure.
"Western countries, especially the United States, sometimes are stupid, as they ban companies from selling advanced technology products in China," said Zong, who is also a member of parliament.
"Only by exporting the products to a broader market can the U.S. cover the investment in the research and development stage."
Zong was listed as mainland China's fifth-richest person, worth 112 billion yuan ($16.24 billion), according to the 2017 Hurun Report, which tracks global wealth.
Wahaha, which means laughing baby in Mandarin, exports bottled beverage, drinking water, and its hit product, mixed congee, to the United States.
(By Lusha Zhang and Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)