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China vows to counter new US tariffs

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China on Wednesday harshly criticized the US for further escalating trade frictions between the two countries by issuing a list of Chinese goods worth $200 billion that will be targeted for additional tariffs, calling the US move "typical bullying" and vowing to retaliate.

While Chinese officials stopped short of announcing specific countermeasures, Chinese experts noted on Wednesday that China is prepared to fight the new US tariffs because the US has telegraphed such moves.

They said China could take "qualitative and quantitative" measures against the US.

Harsh words, threat

"The US has issued a new tariffs list that is completely unacceptable, and we firmly oppose this," the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said in a statement on Wednesday. "To safeguard the country's and its people's core interests, the Chinese government will, as always, take necessary countermeasures," MOFCOM said.

On Tuesday, the US issued a list of Chinese imports covering a wide range of products--from tobacco to doors to toilet paper--on which the US wants to slap a 10 percent tariff. This followed a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion in Chinese goods on Friday, which prompted an equal Chinese response. The new list added fire to an ongoing war between the world's two largest economies.

"US actions are hurting China and the world, and even itself. Such an irrational behavior will not be accepted anywhere," the MOFCOM statement said.

At a regular press briefing, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said the US actions are "typical bullying," adding that this is a war between unilateralism and multilateralism, trade protectionism and free trade, might and rules.

Hua also said that China would take action against the US to protect its interests as well as the global multilateral trade system.

However, the MOFCOM statement and Hua did not refer to any specific measures the Chinese government plans to take.

"Of course, China will not telegraph actions to be taken until the US imposes its announced tariffs. But there is no doubt that China will retaliate," Li Yong, a senior research fellow at the MOFCOM's China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The US list has to go through a two-month public comment period before taking effect.

Li said that if the US pushes through with the new tariffs, China could play many cards.

"If not, why mention qualitative, why mention quantitative, why mention comprehensive measures?" he said, referring to an earlier MOFCOM statement that said China was planning to take comprehensive measures against the US.

'War is at our doorsteps'

Experts said that the MOFCOM's reference to "qualitative and quantitative" measures was made on the assumption that the US would push through with its new tariffs on Chinese goods. China has also taken several actions that some experts said was China's way of countering the US, including expanding imports and market openness, which provide China with alternatives to US goods and investment. 

Given that China has a trade surplus of nearly $300 billion with the US, China would eventually run out of US goods to target. However, China has many ways to hurt the US as much as the US hurts China, including administrative measures on certain US deals and reducing China's exposure to US debt, experts said.

Li said that "it is meaningless to discuss what China would or would not do in advance. When the time comes, actions will be taken."

However, Chen Fengying, an expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that it is time for Chinese officials to take specific actions rather than "threats" against the US because "the war is at our doorsteps."

"The point is to avoid a trade war and damage to both sides. No matter what the two countries do or say at the moment, it will lead to negotiations. It is just a matter of who will get the upper hand," Chen said, adding that by taking the US head on, Chinese officials could gain the upper hand.


Newspaper headline: China slams new tariff plan


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