The Chinese government went on to paint itself a defender of free trade, urging the international community to “work together” to protect a global commerce flow that has brought wealth to nations worldwide.
“This is a fight between unilateralism and multilateralism, protectionism and free trade, and between hegemony and rules,” Ministry of Finance spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Officials also announced that Beijing had leveled another complaint against America’s “unilateralist behavior” to the World Trade Organization, marking China’s 12th such filing against the United States.
The document, filed July 9, claimed the United States was unfairly singling out Chinese products and breaking WTO rules with exceedingly high levies.
The United States, meanwhile, has lodged 22 WTO complaints against China, accusing the Asian nation of a range of illegal trade practices, including propping up its manufacturing and agricultural sectors with subsidies and effectively stealing the trade secrets of foreign firms.
“They have been killing us,” Trump said last week at a Montana rally.
The president made good Tuesday on his threat to hit an added $200 billion in Chinese products with 10 percent tariffs, including clothing, televisions, bedsheets and air conditioners. That’s on top of the higher border taxes on $34 billion in largely industrial goods that took effect Friday.
Administration officials said they’re turning up the pressure on China to stop swiping American intellectual property and to ditch policies that push U.S. companies into divulging their trade secrets in order to enter the Chinese market.
Chinese markets seemed rattled by the news Wednesday, dipping after three days on the upswing, with the Shanghai Composite index dropping 1.8 percent and the blue-chip CSI300 index falling 1.7 percent.
The $200 billion move came in response to Beijing’s retaliation for the first set of U.S. duties, which primarily targeted farmers in America’s heartland, but the new tariffs won’t be imposed until the end of a two-month period for public comment.
Business groups on both sides have said they hope it won’t reach that point, saying the commercial battle will ultimately hurt workers and consumers.
Beijing has pledged to match whatever Trump orders. However, China only purchased about $135 billion in U.S. products last year, so it can’t respond equally to the president’s latest action.
American firms fear the Chinese government will find other ways to hurt their operations, such as delaying license approvals and ramping up regulations.
Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to be treading carefully to avoid a public relations mess, analysts say. The country has vowed to compensate Chinese businesses that suffer from the economic turmoil.
And in recent statements, Xi’s government hasn’t insulted Trump directly. The Commerce Ministry has repeatedly pointed out that it responding to U.S. moves in equal measure — not playing the instigator.
“Xi can’t be seen as soft on the U.S.,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at CSIS in Washington. But “behind the scenes, the Chinese continue to seek out a source in the Trump administration that can help prevent further escalation.”
Luna Lin contributed from Beijing.