The White House has escalated its aggressive actions on trade by proposing 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports to protest Beijing's policies requiring foreign companies to hand over technology.
China immediately said it would retaliate against the new tariffs, which target high-tech industries that Beijing has been nurturing, from advanced manufacturing and aerospace, to information technology and robotics.
The Office of the US Trade Representative issued a list targeting 1,300 Chinese products, including industrial robots and telecommunications equipment.
The suggested tariffs wouldn't take effect right away: A public comment period will last until May 11, and a hearing on the tariffs is set for May 15. Companies and consumers will have the opportunity to lobby to have some products taken off the list or have others added.
The latest US move risks heightening trade tensions with China, which on Monday had slapped taxes on $3 billion in US products in response to earlier US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
"China's going to be compelled to lash back," warned Philip Levy, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an economic adviser to President George W Bush.
Early on Wednesday in Beijing, China's Commerce Ministry said it "strongly condemns and firmly opposes" the proposed US tariffs and warned of retaliatory action.
"We will prepare equal measures for US products with the same scale" according to regulations in Chinese trade law, a ministry spokesman said in comments carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.
The US sanctions are intended to punish China for deploying strong-arm tactics in its drive to become a global technology power. These include pressuring American companies to share technology to gain access to the Chinese market, forcing US firms to license their technology