China's Commerce Ministry said in a statement shortly after a deadline passed Friday that it will levy 25 percent duties on $34 billion worth of imported US goods including autos and agricultural products.
"China promised to not fire the first shot, but to defend national core interests and the interests of the people it has no choice but to strike back as necessary," the ministry said.
It said the US has "initiated the largest-scale trade war in economic history," calling the tariffs "a violation of world trade rules."
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said no one will gain from a trade war as he pledged "measures in response to protect development interests."
"It benefits no one and it would undermine the multilateral free trade process," he said. "If one insists on waging a trade war it would hurt others and themselves."
President Donald Trump warned on Thursday that tariffs on more than a half-trillion dollars worth of Chinese goods would be imposed subsequently.
“You have another 16 (billion dollars) in two weeks, and then, as you know, we have $200 billion in abeyance and then after the $200 billion, we have $300 billion in abeyance. Ok? So we have 50 plus 200 plus almost 300," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday.
English-language newspaper China Daily
on Friday described the Trump administration as "a gang of hoodlums."
"In effect, the Trump administration is behaving like a gang of hoodlums with its shakedown of other countries, particularly China," the state-run newspaper wrote in an editorial.
“Its unruliness looks set to have a profoundly damaging impact on the global economic landscape in the coming decades, unless countries stand together to oppose it," it added.
Trump has accused Beijing of intellectual property theft and barriers to entry for US businesses and a $375 billion US trade deficit with China. He has already started charging levies on the imports of steel and aluminum from the European Union, Mexico and Canada.
China says Washington is "opening fire" on the world with its raft of tariffs aimed at Beijing as well as at trade partners in North America and Europe.
China's Foreign Ministry called on European countries to work with Beijing to safeguard a globally free trade system.
In an interview with Press TV, professor of political economy Jack Rasmus said regarding Trump’s threats against Europe, the US president “hasn’t really done very much and the Europeans have not responded very strongly.”
“Trump wants to agitate his domestic US political base here before the November midterm elections in the US,” Rasmus said.
“Nothing is going to be resolved before November of this year, but I predict after November Trump will come to an agreement not only with Europe but also with Mexico and NAFT countries and so forth,” he concluded.
Analysts believe that the confrontation will backfire and affect the US economy first.
They say American workers, consumers and businesses will pay the cost of the dispute at the end of the day. China’s tariffs on key American goods, including soybeans, cotton and sorghum, threaten US farmers in states that supported Trump in the 2016 election, such as Texas.