China's proposed 25 percent tariffs on U.S.-made aircraft and 105 other American exports is a shot across the bow of the Trump Administration.
But even if China pulls the trigger, Boeing may not take a big hit, at least not in the short term.
At this point, the proposed tariff includes aircraft from any U.S. manufacturer with an empty weight of between 15,000 to 45,000 kilograms, little less than 50 tons. That leaves out the new Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 jetliners.
Currently, Chinese airlines have 301 unfilled jet orders with the company, and most of those are for Renton-built MAX 8 and 9 models.
The tariff would apply to only about 33, 737 Next Generation models on order. Even if China walked away from those jets, the impact to Boeing would be less than a months worth of 737 production.
Despite that, Boeing shares fell 3.4 percent on Wednesday.
Boeing said in a statement: "Boeing is confident that dialogue continues. While both governments have outlined positions that could do harm to the global aerospace industry, neither has yet imposed these drastic measures. We will continue in our own efforts to proactively engage both governments and build on the recent assurances by U.S. and Chinese leaders that productive talks are ongoing. A strong and vibrant aerospace industry is important to the economic prosperity and national security of both countries."
Michel Merluzeau, an industry analyst with Bellevue-based Air Insights Research, said the proposed tariff is designed to get the administration's attention more than anything.
"A means to warn the United States and say, we are looking at your commercial aircraft production," said Merluzeau.
Bottom line: China needs the jets to keep its economy on track and growing, and since both Boeing and Airbus have years worth of backlogged orders, China can't simply run to Airbus and replace the Boeing jets.
But Merluzeau says in the medium and long-term, it could become a big problem for Boeing if the spat breaks out into a serious trade war.
One concern is what damage the loss of China as a robust market could do to Boeing's next jet, likely to be the NMA, a medium sized plane larger than a 737 but smaller than the 787 Dreamliner.
"There is a way to damage the United States and Boeing," he said.
Without China, Merluzeau believes it may never be launched. Then there are the wide bodies, Boeings biggest jets from the 787 up, including the new 777X series. The first one is scheduled to roll out later this year.
"The main beneficiary is going to be Airbus," Merluzeau claims.