With the US President Donald Trump listing China as an adversary last year, analysts say a trade war is looming and blame US trade representative Robert Lighthizer.

US President Donald Trump (R) welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago state in Palm Beach, Florida, US, April 6, 2017.
US President Donald Trump (R) welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago state in Palm Beach, Florida, US, April 6, 2017. ( Reuters Archive )

The US relationship with China during Donald Trump's first year in office has had its ups and downs. 

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said that "China respects strength, and by letting them take advantage of us economically, which they are doing like never before, we have lost all of their respect. We have a massive trade deficit with China."

As president, Trump backpedalled on much of the anti-China rhetoric used during his campaign and adopted a softer tone on trade throughout his meetings with President Xi Jinping. 

Everything appeared to be going smoothly, but by December 2017, the gears shifted again with Trump listing China as a US adversary.

The move raised eyebrows in Beijing and swelled rumours of a trade battle.

If that is the case, analysts say that US trade representative Robert Lighthizer might have a lot to do with it. 

"The scuttlebutt now is that there could be a trade war coming that Lighthizer has increased his leverage as the trade representative and that he's going to push for a trade war and I'm sure they know that so they're thinking about how to respond to that," said David Zweig of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

TRT World's Britt Clennett reports on recent developments that are threatening to rupture relations between Beijing and Washington. 

Source: TRT World