US President Donald Trump, seated, is expected to go ahead today with plans to raise duties on $34 billion of Chinese goods. Picture: Ap
BEIJING: China rejected “threats and blackmail” before a threatened US tariff hike, striking a defiant stance yesterday in a dispute companies worry could flare into a full-blown trade war and chill the global economy.

A government spokesperson said Beijing would defend itself if US President Donald Trump went ahead today with plans to raise duties on $34billion (R461bn) of Chinese goods in the escalating conflict over technology policy.

The dispute reflects foreign frustration with China’s state-led industrial development strategy, which Washington, Europe, Japan and other trading partners say hurts their companies and violates its market-opening commitments. Americans worry that rising Chinese technological prowess might erode US industrial leadership and prosperity.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's government has issued a list of US goods for possible retaliation, but the Commerce Ministry said it would wait to see what Washington would do. “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 ministry spokesperson Gao Feng.

“China will never fire the first shot,” 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.”

Today’s tariff hikes are the first stage in threatened US increases on up to $450bn of imports from China over complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

Xi’s government has expressed confidence China can hold out against US pressure, but companies and investors are uneasy.

Trade worries are adding to anxiety over cooling economic growth and tighter lending controls that have hit real estate and other industries.

The main Chinese stock market index has tumbled 12% over the past month. Chinese exporters of tools, lighting and appliances say US orders have shrunk as customers wait to see what will happen to prices. - AP/African News Agency