China has fired back in a spiralling trade dispute with US president Donald Trump by raising import duties on a 34 billion dollar (£25.6 billion) list of American goods including soybeans, electric cars and whiskey.
The government said it was responding in “equal scale” to Mr Trump’s tariff hike on Chinese goods in a conflict over Beijing’s trade surplus and technology policy.
China “doesn’t want a trade war” but has to “fight back strongly”, said a Commerce Ministry statement.
It said Beijing also was scrapping agreements to narrow its multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more American farm goods, natural gas and other products.
The United States and China have the world’s biggest trading relationship but official ties are increasingly strained over complaints Beijing’s industry development tactics violate its free-trade pledges and hurt American companies.
Europe, Japan and other trading partners raise similar complaints, but Mr Trump has been unusually direct about challenging Beijing and threatening to disrupt such a large volume of exports.
“In this trade war, it’s the US who is playing the role of provocateur, while China plays defense,” said the Global Times, a newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party.
“China is a powerful guardian and has enough ammunition to defend existing trade rules and fairness.”
Beijing will impose an additional 25% tariff starting on July 6 on 545 products from the United States including soybeans, electric cars, orange juice, whiskey, lobsters, salmon and cigars, according to the Ministry of Finance.
Most are food and other farm goods, hitting Mr Trump’s rural supporters hardest.
Beijing appeared to be trying to minimise the impact on its own economy by picking US products that can be replaced by imports from other suppliers such as Brazil or Australia.
Chinese regulators also are considering a tariff hike on an additional 114 products including medical equipment and energy products, the Finance Ministry said. It said a decision would be announced later.
That mirrored the Trump administration’s announcement on Friday of a tariff hike on 34 billion dollars of Chinese goods, also due to take effect July 6, and plans to consider widening it to an additional 16 billion dollars (£12 billion) of other products.