US President Donald Trump on Friday slapped a stiff 25 per cent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods “containing industrially significant technologies,” citing theft of intellectual property and unfair trade practices.
This triggered an immediate retaliation by Beijing, which announced the imposition of "equal" tariffs on US products.
In a statement, Trump said 25 per cent tariffs will be applied to Chinese goods that "contain industrially significant technologies."
Trade between the two countries "has been very unfair, for a very long time," Trump said, adding that "this situation is no longer sustainable."
Trump also warned China of more tariffs if Beijing retaliated on the announcement, which would trigger a full-fledged trade war between the world's two largest economies.
A Chinese Commerce ministry statement gave no details of the American products that would be hit. China has previously promised to respond with retaliatory tariffs on US products such as cars, planes and soybeans.
"It is deeply regrettable that in disregard of the consensus between the two sides, the US has demonstrated flip-flops and ignited a trade war. This move not only hurts bilateral interests, but also undermines world trade order. The Chinese side firmly opposes that," the Chinese commerce ministry said in a statement.
"In light of China's theft of intellectual property and technology and its other unfair trade practices, the United States will implement a 25-per cent tariff on $50 billion of goods from China that contain industrially significant technologies," he said.
Trump has targeted China's 'Made in China 2025' goods that are part of China’s strategic plan to dominate the emerging high-technology industries that will drive future economic growth of China, but hurt economic growth for the US and many other countries, he said.
"America can no longer tolerate losing its technology and intellectual property through unfair economic practices," he said.
"These tariffs are essential to preventing further unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China, which will protect American jobs," Trump said.
In addition, they will serve as an initial step toward bringing balance to the trade relationship between the US and China, he asserted. Currently, the US has a trade deficit of more than $370 billion per annum with China.
Trump warned that "the United States will pursue additional tariffs if China engages in retaliatory measures such as imposing new tariffs on US goods, services, or agricultural products, raising non-tariff barriers, or taking punitive actions against American exporters or American companies operating in China".
He reiterated that his friendship with President Xi Jinping and America's relationship with China are both very important to him.
The US says its tariffs on Chinese goods are in response to what it categorises as theft of intellectual property.
A Chinese commerce ministry spokesperson said China does not want a trade war. However, confronted by such short-sighted act that hurts both the US itself and others, China has no choice but to fight back forcefully to firmly safeguard the interests of the nation and its people and uphold economic globalisation and the multilateral trading system.
It also called on other countries to "take collective action" against the US move, calling it "outdated and backwards behaviour".
The list of products issued by US trade representative covers 1,102 separate US tariff lines valued at approximately $50 billion in 2018 trade values.