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[WASHINGTON] Chinese finance minister Lou Jiwei criticized Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, calling him "an irrational type" due to his proposal that tariffs on imported Chinese goods be increased to up to 45 per cent.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday, Mr Lou said, "Trump is an irrational type. If he were to do this, that would be in violation of the rules set by the World Trade Organization."
Mr Lou said that if the United States put Mr Trump's proposal into effect, it "would not be entitled to its position as the world's major power. The US needs to recognize that the US and China are mutually dependent on each other. Our economic cycles are intertwined." He acknowledged that rhetoric in a US presidential campaign can become heated.
China is the United States' largest trading partner.
Chinese officials have generally avoided criticizing Mr Trump directly, though they have made indirect criticism of his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States and indirectly rebuffed Mr Trump's claims that China is stealing US jobs.
China's tightly-controlled state media has largely stuck to reporting the facts about Mr Trump, with some notable exceptions.
Last month, influential tabloid the Global Times accused Mr Trump of being a racist, warning that other extremists, such as Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, had both been voted into power.
Mr Trump on Sunday again asserted that China had waged "economic war" against the United States.
"They've taken our jobs, they've taken our money," the billionaire businessman said at a campaign rally in New York.
"We can't continue to be ripped off like we're being ripped off."
At a Republican presidential debate last month, Mr Trump said China will not allow free trade or US manufacturers to compete freely.
"The 45 per cent (tariff) is a threat that if they don't behave, if they don't follow the rules and regulations so that we can have it equal on both sides, we will tax you," he said.
Republican rival Ted Cruz criticized the 45 per cent tariff proposal, saying during the same debate that it would be passed on to US consumers.
"How does it help you to have a president come and say ... I'm going to put a 45 per cent tax on diapers when you buy diapers, on automobiles when you buy automobiles, on clothing when you buy clothing. That hurts you," the US senator from Texas said.
The United States reported a US$366-billion trade deficit with China in 2015, up from US$343 billion in 2014 - the largest US trade imbalance with any nation. The deficit is up nearly 12 per cent in the first two months of 2016 to US$57 billion.