Apart from tariff threats, the USA has launched a number of "Section 301" investigations against China over the years, looking into intellectual property protection, market access and industrial subsidies.
Trade tensions between the world's two largest economies have been steadily escalating over recent months as Trump began tariff fights with long-standing U.S. allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union over steel and aluminum production.
"If the United States takes unilateral, protectionist measures, harming China's interests, we will quickly react and take necessary steps to resolutely protect our fair, legitimate rights", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular daily news briefing, according to the Associated Press. President Trump shot back with a warning of up to an additional $100 billion in US tariffs on China.
Robert E. Lighthizer, the president's chief trade negotiator, has said that the tariff list would be created to minimize the impact upon consumers.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng revealed that while there had been no bilateral talks between the two sides on trade disputes, the U.S. did follow WTO procedures to open a dialogue following China's petition that USA trade practices violated WTO rules.
"I'm a China-basher on trade", he told AFP, but added: "I don't see why we're imposing $50 billion worth of tariffs on China".
But his proposed tariffs against China risk starting a trade war involving the world's two biggest economies.
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Wall Street has viewed the escalating trade tensions with wariness, fearful that they could strangle the economic growth achieved during Trump's watch and undermine the benefits of the tax cuts he signed into law previous year.
On Thursday China's top diplomat, state councillor Wang Yi, said there were two choices when it came to the trade issue. "His fundamental commitment to the "deplorables" on the campaign trail was that he was going to bring manufacturing jobs back, particularly from Asia". "This situation is no longer sustainable".
Spain's newly appointed agricultural minister, Luis Planas, also opposed the tariff's impact, saying it was unjust.
The list will contain 800 product categories, down from 1,300 previously, according to another administration official and an industry source familiar with the list.
The trade representative office has held public hearings on the list of 1,300 categories of products to see whether duties on any of the goods would unduly harm US consumers and businesses.
The move toward imposing US tariffs on Chinese goods follows negotiations between USA and Chinese officials centered on increased purchases by Beijing of American farm and energy commodities and cutting the US trade deficit with China.
ZTE last week agreed to pay a $1 billion fine to the US government to end a crippling supplier ban imposed after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who conspired to evade USA sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
Administration officials have been targeting products where China provides less than a third of total United States imports to minimize the effect on consumers.