A McDonald's sign is displayed outside its outlet, the first one which opened in China in 1990, at the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen neighbouring Hong Kong, March 18, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
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As a trade war looms, one of Chinese President Xi Jinping's biggest weapons could be boycotts of American brands by his country's legion of consumers. But Xi would also be risking collateral damage at home: The China operations of all-American brands ranging from Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald's Corp. to Walt Disney Co. are co-owned by state-backed Chinese firms.Imports of Chinese goods into the U.S. totaled $505 billion in 2017 while China only imported $130 billion from the U.S., limiting Xi's ability to respond with tit-for-tat penalties. However, American companies sold $280 billion of goods and services in China last year through their local subsidiaries, according to Deutsche Bank AG.Besides boycotts, Beijing could consider creating costly administrative bottlenecks for U.S. imports or impose punitive measures against U.S. companies operating in China, analysts at research firm TS Lombard wrote in a June 20 note.Xi's government last month said China would retaliate immediately and forcefully to U.S. tariffs.Not all American brands have Chinese partners, so Beijing could simply decide to single out some.
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