Consumer boycotts: How China could hit the U.S. where it hurts

A series of government-encouraged boycotts sent sales of South Korean-made Hyundais in China plummeting by more than half, decreased Chinese tourist traffic by more than 60 percent and temporarily shut down 55 supermarkets in China run by the large Korean retailer Lotte.

As the Trump administration escalates its own trade dispute with China, the U.S. should expect much the same. Whether it’s encouraging Chinese consumers to give up their Big Macs, or making it harder for U.S. companies to open bank accounts, Beijing could rely on a number of tactics that have served it well in previous trade spats to turn up the heat on U.S. companies wanting a piece of China’s massive and lucrative market…

“It could get quite ugly,” said Deborah Elms, founder of the Asian Trade Centre, a trade consultancy based in Singapore. “The nightmare scenario for firms might not even involve the government. What happens if Chinese consumers start boycotting American products? Stop drinking Starbucks? Wanting iPhones?”