China rejects ‘blackmail’ on eve of U.S. tariff hike

China rejected “threats and blackmail” ahead of planned U.S. tariff hike, striking a defiant stance Thursday in a dispute companies worry could flare into a full-blown trade war and chill the global economy.

The Trump administration plans to impose 25% duties on July 6 on $34 billion of Chinese goods in its biggest sanctions yet over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.

Beijing has threatened to retaliate by raising its own tariffs on American goods, but a Commerce Ministry spokesman said Chinese authorities will wait to see what Washington does.

“China will not bow in the face of threats and blackmail, nor will it be shaken in its resolve to defend global free trade,” said Gao Feng at a news conference.

“China will never fire the first shot,” Mr. Gao said. “However, if the United States adopts taxation measures, China will be forced to fight back to defend the core interests of the nation and the interests of the people.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to raise duties on up to $450 billion of imports from China. Coupled with China’s vow to retaliate, it has fuelled fears the conflict could weigh on global economic growth.

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