BEIJING — China has warned it will swing back with tariffs on another $60 billion in American imports following President Trump’s escalation of the trade war, a move that could slap levies on almost everything the United States sells to the nation as early as next week.
Beijing’s proposed retaliation to Trump’s duties on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods, set to take effect Sept. 24, would mark the first time the country hasn’t matched the United States tit for tat in the months-old commercial battle.
Hours before Trump ordered the new tariffs Monday, expanding the trade war between the world’s two largest economies by fourfold, Chinese officials maintained they felt forced to fight back.
“First, if the U.S. introduces any new tariff measures against China, China will have to take necessary countermeasures and resolutely safeguard our legitimate rights and interests,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a news conference in Beijing. “Second, the escalation of trade disputes does not meet the interests of either party.”
China purchased roughly $130 billion in American goods last year — less than a third of what the Umited States ordered from Chinese enterprises — and now Beijing is poised to impose higher border taxes on the vast majority: $110 billion in U.S. products, should it follow through with its threat.
In an August statement, China’s Commerce Ministry said it would respond to Trump’s $200 billion round of tariffs with duties on more than 5,200 types of American imports, including industrial parts, chemicals and medical instruments.
Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said Trump’s move could trigger a swift response from the Chinese government.
“After his list is out, then China’s countermeasures will follow,” Ni said. “In this way, the second round has started.”
Cheng Dingding, founder of the think tank Intellisia at Jinan University in Guangzhou, said a tough response from China doesn’t mean the government will abandon negotiations.
“We will fight and talk at the same time,” he said.
The news landed in China on Sept. 18, a day considered the start of Japanese aggression 87 years ago — and an anniversary some Chinese see as an informal day of national humiliation.
Beijing has said it would unleash “qualitative” measures against the United States, which American business groups have interpreted as heightened regulations and stalled visas.
China has maintained that it’s well positioned to withstand economic blows from the American side in a geopolitical tussle that could drag on indefinitely, even as the nation’s growth is projected to slow this year.
The country’s central bank, meanwhile, has allowed its currency to slide about 5 percent since January, giving Chinese exports an edge in overseas markets while making foreign imports costlier. (On Tuesday, it cost 6.88 renminbi to buy a dollar.)
Though Trump has bashed China for letting its currency slide, analysts say the People’s Bank of China probably won’t greenlight much more tumbling since a fading RMB could spook more assets out of the country.
“The weakening of the RMB could help offset the new tariffs,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Commodities and Global Markets, a consultancy in Hong Kong. “However, it will also hurt China itself.”
Other signs of weakness in China’s economy as the trade war escalates include cooling consumer spending, slowing infrastructure investment and a relatively low but growingrate of corporate bond defaults.
The Shanghai Composite Index, meanwhile, has plummeted more than 20 percent since the year’s start, with losses snowballing after Trump launched the trade war.
Some analysts have predicted the business uncertainty will prompt layoffs in China, which currently has a tight labor market, with unemployment at 3.8 percent.
But demand for Chinese products on American soil has persisted amid rising tensions: the latest census data, released Wednesday, showed the U.S. goods deficit with China this year has grown about eight percent to $234 billion from the same time last year.
Deutsche Bank economists Zhiwei Zhang and Yi Xiong estimated in a Tuesday analysis that an escalated trade war will shave a half percentage point off the country’s growth. Goods to the United States, they noted, accounted last year for just 12 percent of China’s total exports — and the trade war isn’t exactly popular with the American business community.
“The Chinese authorities likely feel no urgency to give in and agree with all the terms the U.S. side requested,” Zhiwei and Yi wrote. “China may follow a ‘wait-and-see’ strategy in the next few months before the U.S. midterm election is over in November.”
At a Sunday forum in Beijing, former finance minister Lou Jiwei said he believed Trump sought to contain Chinese economic development.
“This won’t change in the near future, but it won’t work either,” he said. “We should not panic.”
Luna Lin and Yang Liu contributed to this report.
World news email alerts
Important breaking news emails for major happenings around the world.