"In order to defend the core interests of the country and the interests of the people, we are forced to retaliate", the Chinese Commerce Ministry said in a statement shortly after the tariffs took effect.
While Trump touts announcements of jobs created in steel plants due to the tariffs, manufacturing industries warn many more jobs will be lost in companies producing autos, auto parts, appliances and other goods that depend on imported components.
An official at a company in Shanghai that handles customs clearance for importers said to Reuters that the port of Shanghai is said to have put on hold clearing some U.S. imports through customs.
The Chinese government said that it was "forced to counterattack" against U.S. punitive tariffs on its imports, which went into effect early on Friday.
But Trump has said his administration will respond to retaliation from Beijing with much bigger waves of tariffs, raising the prospect of worsening tit-for-tat reprisals. The first phase of that will affect $34 billion worth of goods.
Hours before Washington's deadline for the tariffs to take effect, US President Donald Trump upped the ante, warning that the United States may ultimately target over $500 billion worth of Chinese goods, or roughly the total amount of US imports from China past year. "So we have 50 plus 200 plus nearly 300". China's tariffs on major USA exports like soybeans, sorghum, and autos, target Republican areas ahead of United States midterm elections.
That would bring the total of targeted Chinese goods to potentially $550 billion, which is more than the $506 billion in goods that China actually shipped to the United States previous year. These tactics include cyber-theft and requiring American companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to China's market.
"The United States violated the [World Trade Organisation] rules and launched the largest trade war in economic history to date", the Commerce Ministry said.
During an official visit to Bulgaria, China's No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, said "no one will win by fighting a trade war, yet China will take countermeasures in the face of unilateral moves".
And despite dire warnings about the impact on the US, Trump believes the robust American economy can outlast its rivals in the current battle. But after three rounds of negotiations between the two sides, including a Chinese pledge to significantly increase purchases of American products, Trump chose to go ahead with the tariffs.
It's also possible that Europe could become ensnared in the U.S.
Ongoing trade tensions have weighed on the Chinese stock market, and led to a weakening of the yuan against the greenback.
For the time being, analysts say it's hard to see Washington or Beijing backing down in the dispute.
There would be a better chance of success against China if Mr. Trump were working in concert with other countries, including the United States' traditional allies and trading partners with which the United States has long enjoyed relatively free trade: Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
"Our baseline forecast assumes only a modest further escalation in the trade "war" this summer", Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a Friday note.
But reaching a deal that's palatable to both sides will be tough. "For example, my vehicle is from America".
"China, which is in the crosshairs of the Trump administration's racketeering gun sights, has no choice but to fight back".
The Trump administration is "behaving like a gang of hoodlums", it says.