The deputy editor of the Global Times, one of the country’s most influential, and hawkish, tabloids told Sky News there was no doubt China would respond with military action if its ability to reach the islands was threatened.
“Of course, because that’s our territory,” Lu Jingxian said.
“We already control that island, and that is our island.
“We are going to those islands no matter what.”
She was asked about comments made by Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, during a confirmation hearing last week, in which he said China’s actions in the disputed waters were “akin to Russia’s taking Crimea”.
“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,” he said in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 12 January.
Ms Lu questioned how he was planning to do that, and said China would protect what it views as core national interests.
“If the US is going to send warships that’s no use – you can’t force us to withdraw from our territory,” she said.
“If that means launching a missile that would be war, so we are going to respond with military actions, no doubt.”
While the next American president has been busily tweeting from Trump Tower, China has been testing weapons and carrying out exercises from its aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.
CCTV, the state broadcaster released pictures of fighter jets taking off from the Liaoning, the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, earlier this month.
China’s government has said it is “seriously concerned” by the President-elect’s recent comments on the ‘one China’ policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China, warning that the issue is non-negotiable.
“They are lifting a rock only to drop it on their feet,” foreign minister Wang Yi said.
Perhaps to underline the point, the Liaoning sailed home through the Taiwan Strait.
In the Global Times’ Beijing headquarters, reporters are sifting through Mr Trump’s latest pronouncements, trying to work out how much of the anti-China rhetoric they heard on the campaign trail, is likely to translate into policy over the next four years.
The job now also involves wading through the @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed, even though the site is technically blocked in China.
“From my own perspective, I just watch what he says,” business editor Wang Cong explained.
“It’s kind of funny, but also kind of serious – it’s from the President-elect of the United States.”
Donald Trump has also threatened to impose steep tariffs on Chinese imports, and declare the country a currency manipulator on his first day in office.
William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, which represents more than 900 US companies, told Sky News his members want a level playing field, not a trade war.
“It’s a lose-lose, and it really is going to hurt, in America and in China, the workers that we are trying to help.”
“It really doesn’t make sense.”
In an admittedly unscientific survey, Sky News spoke to people absorbing Mr Trump’s victory immediately after the election at a popular public newspaper display board in Beijing.
There was a degree of optimism, and a number of comments about him being a “shangren” – or businessman – a man who knew how to get deals done, and who could be quite positive for China.
We went back there on Wednesday morning to see if that was still the case.
“He is no good for China,” the first man told us.
“Trump’s got a nickname in China,” another man said.
“‘Trump’s Cluelessness’ – do you get it?” (It’s a play on how his name sounds in Mandarin).
“Because when he speaks he just says whatever he wants without thinking. He’s clueless.”
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