The White House has accused China of distorting global markets and said the country should not target "fairly traded US exports" after Beijing increased tariffs by up to 25% on 128 US products.

The move was in response to US duties on imports of aluminum and steel.

China's subsidisation and continued overcapacity is the root cause of the steel crises," White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement.

"Instead of targeting fairly traded US exports, China needs to stop its unfair trading practices which are harming US national security and distorting global markets.

The products hit by the increased tariffs include frozen pork, wine and certain fruits and nuts.

The tariffs were announced late yesterday by China's finance ministry and matched a list of potential tariffs on up to $3 billion in US goods published by China on 23 March.

Soon after the announcement, an editorial in the widely-read Chinese tabloid Global Times warned that if the US had thought China would not retaliate or would only take symbolic counter-measures, it can now "say goodbye to that delusion."

"Even though China and the US have not publicly said they are in a trade war, the sparks of such a war have already started to fly," the editorial said.

China's Ministry of Commerce said it was suspending its obligations to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to reduce tariffs on 120 US goods, including fruit and ethanol.

The tariffs on those products will be raised by an extra 15%.

Eight other products, including pork and scrap aluminium, will now be subject to additional tariffs of 25% it said, with the measures effective from today.

"China's suspension of its tariff concessions is a legitimate action adopted under WTO rules to safeguard China's interests," the Chinese finance ministry said.

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The retaliatory tariffs came amid escalating trade tensions between Beijing and Washington, which have rocked global financial markets in the past week as investors feared a full-blown trade spat between two countries will be damaging for world growth.

US President Donald Trump is separately preparing to impose tariffs of more than $50 billion on Chinese goods intended to punish Beijing over US accusations that China systematically misappropriated American intellectual property - allegations Beijing denies.

China has repeatedly promised to open its economy further, but many foreign companies continue to complain of unfair treatment. China warned the United States on Thursday not to open a Pandora's Box and spark a flurry of protectionist practices across the globe.

"There are some people in the West who think that China looks tough for the sake of a domestic audience, and would easily make concessions in the end," the Global Times editorial said.

"But they are wrong."

The Global Times is run by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, although its stance does not necessarily reflect Chinese government policy.

In a statement published this morning, the Chinese commerce ministry said the US had "seriously violated" the principles of non-discrimination enshrined in WTO rules, and had also damaged China's interests.

"China's suspension of some of its obligations to the United States is its legitimate right as a member of the World Trade Organization," it said, adding that differences between the world's two largest economies should be resolved through dialogue and negotiation.