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Beijing (AFP) - China on Monday lashed out at US "economic intimidation" following President Donald Trump's announcement of new import tariffs, but said it was open to negotiations to resolve trade frictions.
The two countries have traded threats and heated rhetoric in recent days, ratcheting up fears that the world's two biggest economies are heading towards a damaging trade war.
Trump said last Thursday that the United States would impose new tariffs on some $60 billion of Chinese imports over the "theft" of intellectual property, rattling global financial markets.
Vice President Mike Pence boasted that the measures mean that the "era of economic surrender is over".
Asked about the remarks, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press briefing on Monday that "it would have been more appropriate to say that it's time to stop the US's economic intimidation and hegemony".
Beijing has not stood idle. On Friday, it unveiled a list of $3 billion worth of US goods, including pork, fruits and wine, that could be targeted with tariffs in retaliation for steel and aluminium tariffs -- if negotiations fail.
"We also have the confidence and the capacity to safeguard our legitimate and legal interests, whatever the circumstances," Hua said. "Now the ball is in the US court."
While the two sides have traded barbs in public, US and Chinese officials have begun behind-the-scenes negotiations to improve American access to the Asian country's huge market, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"We keep saying that the Chinese side is willing to negotiate with the US to properly manage divergences, on the basis of mutual respect and equal mutual benefits," Hua said when asked about the report.
"Our door is always wide open to dialogue and consultation."