The trade spat between the US and China is a symptom of a “broader desire to see China contained,” according to the boss of HSBC Holdings Plc.

Describing the ongoing skirmishes as “the dominant economic theme,” Chief Executive Officer John Flint said the relationship between the world’s two biggest nations is forging a new geopolitical front. Asia accounted for just under half of HSBC’s net revenues last year, but 91% of operating income.

“When we get past trade, I think it’s clear there is a broader desire to see China contained in some way,” Flint said at the Bloomberg Emerging & Frontier Forum in London on Tuesday. “I think we’ll move into a chapter that covers technology and maybe a bifurcation of technology and technology standards.”

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HSBC, Europe’s largest bank with deep roots in China, has not yet felt the impact of the trade war on its earnings, Flint said, adding that continuing tension could lead to more customers postponing investment decisions.

China and the US are scheduled to resume talks later this week at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, with no signs their tit-for-tat trade war will end any time soon.

Despite the current turmoil, Flint said China’s rapid expansion in the global economy “gives Western liberal democracies pause for thought, because here is a deeply socialist system that’s served its people really well.”

The backdrop to global banks’ business in China has been defined in recent weeks by the row over comments made by UBS Group AG’s global chief economist Paul Donovan after he used the phrase “Chinese pig” in an analysis of the impact of swine flu.