A container ship is docked a port in Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong province. (AP)

The Chinese Commerce Ministry issued a stern statement Saturday saying that it “firmly opposes” the Trump administration’s decision to increase tariffs on $550 billion worth of Chinese imports, calling it “protectionist bullying.”

The latest development in the escalating U.S. trade war with China took place as President Trump and the leaders of some of the United States’ closest allies arrived in France for the 45th annual Group of Seven summit.

The Chinese statement followed a flurry of exchanges between Beijing and the Trump administration on Friday, starting with Beijing announcing it would impose new tariffs   on $75 billion in goods, including reinstating levies on auto products. Hours later, Trump tweeted that he would respond by raising the rates of existing and planned tariffs, saying, “We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them.”

Trump also demanded that U.S. companies stop doing business with China, prompting rebukes from American businesses and trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

By the end of the trading day Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average had fallen 600 points, or nearly 2.4 percent.

The White House did not respond Saturday to a request for comment on the Chinese statement, which also urged the United States “to not misjudge the situation, to not underestimate the determination of the Chinese people, and to immediately stop its wrongdoings.”

“The U.S. is going to reap what it has sown with such unilateral, protectionist bullying and extreme pressurizing,” the statement from an unnamed spokesman also said.

Beijing has kept up a steady drumbeat of threats against the United States during the trade war, but it has relatively fewer options for responding, as China imports exponentially less from the United States than it exports.

Earlier Saturday, in the hours after the Trump administration announced its latest tariff move, Taoran Notes, a social media account thought to be run by the Communist Party’s Economic Daily newspaper, said the United States “shouldn’t feel surprised” by China’s retaliatory tariffs.

“China doesn’t want to fight this trade war,” the post said. “But if the U.S. side keeps turning up the heat with radical measures, then the only consequence is that American enterprises in still more fields would be brought home to the fact that there is no winner in a trade war.”

Chinese state media did not directly respond to Trump’s tweet suggesting that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, was an “enemy” of the United States.

Trump’s attacks on China could also put him under intense pressure at the G-7, where he has called a special session to discuss the global economy. He has repeatedly lauded the United States’ economic prowess, while saying economies elsewhere in the world are in trouble.

The U.S. economy’s performance is much more intertwined with global pressures than Trump has acknowledged.

The conflict has taken a toll across the globe. China’s economic growth has slowed to its lowest rate in 27 years, as factory output declines and unemployment rises. Central bank leaders in Europe, Asia and Australia have cut interest rates in recent weeks, citing the need for economic stimulus.

Also on Saturday, Trump tweeted a defense of comments he made during an impromptu news conference he held earlier in the week regarding the trade war, saying he was joking when he said he was “the chosen one” to take on China.

“When I looked up to the sky and jokingly said ‘I am the chosen one,’ at a press conference two days ago, referring to taking on Trade with China, little did I realize that the media would claim that I had a ‘Messiah complex,’ ” Trump tweeted. “[Reporters] knew I was kidding, being sarcastic.”