September 20, 2018 5:40 am
Updated: September 20, 2018 5:43 am

U.S.-China trade war could last 20 years, Chinese billionaire says: ‘It’s going to be a mess’

ABOVE: Trump defiant on tariffs as China levies $60B in tariffs on U.S. goods.

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Jack Ma, co-founder of Chinese e-tech giant Alibaba Group Holding, said on Thursday that people should make preparations for 20 years of China-U.S. trade frictions.

The economic situation is not good, and that could last for a long time, Ma said at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin.

China added $60 billion of U.S. products to its import tariff list on Tuesday to hit back at U.S. duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods that go into effect from Sept. 24.

READ MORE: China hits back at Trump, announces $60B tariff hike on U.S. goods

Some analysts and American businesses are now concerned China could resort to other means of retaliation such as pressuring U.S. companies operating in China.

Ma, a known advocate for globalization, this week expressed his growing pessimism over the dispute, saying it would be a “mess” for all parties involved.

Alibaba Group co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma attends the WAIC (World Artificial Intelligence Conference) in Shanghai, China, September 17, 2018.

REUTERS/Aly Song

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened further retaliation if Beijing takes aim at U.S. agricultural or industrial workers as he accused China of trying to sway U.S. elections by targeting farmers.

“China has been forced to take retaliatory measures, and they are entirely meant to protect China’s own interests,” commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a weekly news briefing in Beijing.

“They are also meant to protect global free trade order, and have nothing to do with domestic politics in the United States.”

WATCH: Trump levels new multi-billion dollar tariff on China


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He did not directly reply to questions asking if there will be a fresh round of trade talks between Beijing and Washington, which had appeared to be in the works prior to the latest tit-for-tat tariffs.

The deepening rift between China and the United States has stoked concerns about job losses on both sides of the Pacific as tariffs threaten to erode trade flows and economic growth.

READ MORE: China hoping to secure free-trade agreement with Canada amid rising tensions with U.S.

“The current economic situation is indeed not good, and that could go on longer than people think,” Ma said. “On China-U.S. frictions, people should make preparations for the next 20 years.”

Ma met Trump two years ago and laid out Alibaba’s plan to bring small U.S. businesses onto its platform to sell to Chinese consumers. The Chinese billionaire also promised to create 1 million jobs in the United States.

Alibaba can no longer meet that promise, Ma told Chinese news agency Xinhua on Wednesday.

WATCH: Trump says time isn’t right for a trade deal with China

“The current situation has already destroyed the original premise. There is no way to deliver the promise,” he said.

Chinese firms with factories in the United States would also face higher costs as they ship U.S.-assembled products back home.

Chinese white goods firm Haier Group, which acquired General Electric’s home appliances businesses two years ago, has halted plans to sell products made in the United States by the GE Appliances brand in China, Financial Times cited the group’s chief executive Zhang Ruimin as saying.

© 2018 Reuters

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