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Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said that the proposed US tariffs would hit many American and foreign companies operating in China and disrupt their supplies of components and assembly work.

The administration started imposing tariffs at 12:01 a.m.

China's commerce ministry, in a statement shortly after the US deadline passed at 0401 GMT on Friday, said that it was forced to retaliate, meaning $34 billion worth of imported USA goods including autos and agricultural products also faced 25 percent tariffs.

US officials and business owners have warned Trump that the tariffs will be a major hit to American companies.

Flags of United States and China are placed for a meeting between Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and China's Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu at the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing, China June 30, 2017.

Yesterday German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the spectre of the global financial crisis as she warned of potential fallout from a trade war with the USA, saying tariffs on European cars would be "much more serious" than levies on steel and aluminum.

The big question is how far the hostilities between Washington and Beijing will go.

With the US on Friday hitting China with tariffs on $34 billion in imports, and China immediately striking back with equivalent levies, the Sino-American trade war is officially on.

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.

At the stroke of midnight Washington time, the United States pulled the trigger on 25-per cent duties on about US$34 billion in Chinese machinery, electronics and high-tech equipment, including autos, computer hard drives and LEDs.

The agency said on Thursday that tariffs on USA products will take effect immediately after US tariffs on Chinese goods kick in. "So we have 50 plus 200 plus nearly 300". The administration is also weighing auto import tariffs and restrictions on Chinese investment in United States technology.

The US trade deficit in goods with China ballooned to a record $375.2 billion previous year, further stoking Trump's ire.

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U.S. officials accuse China of building its emerging industrial dominance by stealing the "crown jewels" of American technological know-how through cyber-theft, forced transfers of intellectual property and state-sponsored corporate acquisitions.

"Trade war is never a solution", Li said at a news briefing with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in Sofia.

A statement from the Chinese Commerce Ministry denounced U.S. actions as "a violation of world trade rules" and warned that the current dispute between both countries was launching the "biggest trade war in history".

That would bring the total of targeted Chinese goods to potentially $550 billion - more than the $506 billion in goods that China actually shipped to the United States a year ago.

"The US has provoked this trade war".

The American Chamber of Commerce in China appealed to both sides to negotiate a settlement.

The clash with China comes as the Trump administration is also fighting over trade with American allies such as Canada and the European Union.

The dollar slid early Friday, even after a stronger-than-expected jobs report. China did not specify what items would be targeted with retaliatory tariffs, but it has previously threatened to hit American agricultural products such as pork and soy beans.

For the time being, analysts say it's hard to see Washington or Beijing backing down in the dispute.

China said it would respond with measures of a "corresponding number and quality" if the U.S. produced a list of products that could be hit.

Asked whether USA companies would be targeted with "qualitative measures" in China in a trade war, Gao said the government would protect the legal rights of all foreign companies in the country.