China will "absolutely not" fire the first shot in a trade war with the US and will not be the first to levy tariffs, its finance ministry said today.
A person with knowledge of the plan earlier told Reuters that China's threatened tariffs on $34 billion of US goods would take effect from the beginning of the day on Friday.
Given the12-hour time difference, that would have put its implementation ahead of Washington's. Other media carried similar reports.
But the ministry issued a brief clarification in response.
"The Chinese government's position has been stated many times. We absolutely will not fire the first shot, and will not implement tariff measures ahead of the US doing so," it said.
Washington has said it would implement tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports on July 6, and Beijing has vowed to retaliate in kind on the same day.
Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China was ready to act, though he did not confirm the start date for Chinese tariffs.
"China has already made preparations," Lu told a daily news briefing.
"As long as the United States issues a so-called tariff list, China will take necessary measures to firmly protect its legitimate interests," he added, without elaborating.
Chinese state media today kept up a steady drum beat of criticism of the US.
The official China Daily said the US was intentionally trying to prevent China from developing to keep it from challenging the former's role in the global economic order.
"The US has maintained hegemony in the military and financial fields for many decades. Now it is pursuing economic hegemony," the English-language newspaper said in an editorial.
Widely-read tabloid the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily, said the increasingly likely trade war would bring chaos to the world.
"Counterstrike is major economies' first reaction toWashington's trade war," it said in its editorial.
"It's hard to predict where these moves will lead the world, but Washington will unavoidably pay heavy prices for its attempts to change the whole world to its economic tributary," the newspaper added.
US President Donald Trump has threatened to escalate the trade conflict with tariffs on as much as $400 billion in Chinese goods if Beijing retaliates against the US tariffs set to take effect on Friday.