While the commentary didn't say how Beijing might respond, Chinese law gives regulators discretion over what foreign firms can do in China.
Beijing: A Chinese state newspaper warned on Monday that President Donald Trump "could trigger a trade war" if he goes ahead with plans to launch an investigation of whether China is stealing US technology.
In a commentary by a researcher at a Commerce Ministry think tank, the China Daily said Trump's possible decision to launch an investigation, which an official says he will announce on Monday, could "intensify tensions," especially over intellectual property.
The official told reporters on Saturday the president would order his trade office to look into whether to launch an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 of possible Chinese theft of US technology and intellectual property.
The Chinese government has yet to comment on the announcement. A decision to use the Trade Act to rebalance trade with China "could trigger a trade war," said the commentary under the name of researcher Mei Xinyu of the ministry's International Trade and Economic Cooperation Institute.
"And the inquiry the US administration has ordered into China's trade policies, if carried out, could intensify tensions, especially on intellectual property rights."
The commentary gave no indication of how Beijing might respond but Chinese law gives regulators broad discretion over what foreign companies can do in China.
If an investigation begins, Washington could seek remedies either through the World Trade Organization or outside of it.
Previous US actions directed at China under the 1974 law had little effect, said the China Daily. It noted China has grown to become the biggest exporter and has the world's largest foreign exchange reserves.
"The use of Section 301 by the US will not have much impact on China's progress toward stronger economic development and a better future," said the newspaper.