China rejected "threats and blackmail" ahead of a threatened US 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. A government spokesman says Beijing will defend itself if President Trump goes ahead Friday with plans to raise duties on $34 billion of Chinese goods in the escalating conflict over technology policy. Chinese President Xi Jinping's government has issued a list of US goods for possible retaliation, but the Commerce Ministry says it 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," says ministry spokesman Gao Feng.
"China will never fire the first shot," Gao says. "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." Friday's tariff hikes are the first stage in threatened US increases on up to $450 billion of imports from China over complaints that Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology, the AP reports. 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 dropped 12% over the past month, and other Asian markets tumbled Thursday ahead of the expected tariff hikes.
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