The Chinese authorities will “take firm measures to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests” if the European Commission opens an investigation into the sale of Chinese mobile infrastructure equipment in Europe, according to a Reuters report.

According to comments attributed to Shen Danyang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce, while communications between Europe and China are “smooth and open”, if an investigation goes ahead the country will act to protect its interests, and “the consequences must be borne by the party provoking the friction”.

Earlier this week, the EC said it had taken a “decision in principle” to investigate the way in which Chinese players do business in Europe, but said that this would not be activated “to allow for negotiations towards an amicable solution”.

Reuters said that an unnamed Chinese diplomat had suggested that “the EU in the end does not want to make a big fuss about this”, meaning that a negotiated agreement is the most likely settlement.

The threat of an investigation follows speculation that China has been providing subsidies to companies such as Huawei and ZTE, which have therefore been able to undercut the prices of rivals.

However, it has been widely noted that the European action has been initiated without the support of Western infrastructure vendors such as Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Siemens Networks, all of which already have significant operations in China and are unlikely to want to stir up trouble in what is a lucrative market for them.