China will take “comprehensive countermeasures” and fight “at any cost” US President Donald Trump’s directive to authorities to consider tariffs on $100-billion worth of Chinese products, a top official said on Friday.

The US, the world’s largest economy, has a trade deficit of almost USD 500 billion with China, the second-largest economy.

The statement by China came a day after Trump ordered the US Trade Representative (USTR) to consider imposing tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese imports.

China will hit back with comprehensive countermeasures if US continues its unilateral, protectionist practices, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Commerce said.

“On Sino-US trade, China has made its position very clear. We don’t want a trade war, but we are not afraid of such a war,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.

“Concerning the US statement, we will not only listen to the words but also watch the deeds,” the spokesperson said.

If the US continues its protectionism regardless of opposition from China and the international community, “China will fight to the end at any cost to protect the interests of the country and the people. The conflict was initiated by the United States as provocation,” the official said.

China will continue reforms and opening up, safeguard multilateral trade, and promote trade and investment liberalisation, the spokesperson said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang also made similar pledge when asked to comment on Trump’s direction.

“We have heard what the US has said publicly about imposing tariffs, and we will also monitor what moves it will take. If the US disregards the objections of China and the international community and persists in unilateralism and trade protectionism, the Chinese side will follow through to the end and fight back resolutely,” Lu said.

“China will take new comprehensive countermeasures to resolutely safeguard the interests of our nation and our people at whatever cost,” he said in a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry website.

By provoking a trade conflict with China, the US side in fact mounted a challenge to the world multilateralism and free trade regime with its unilateralism and protectionism, Lu said.

Wei Jianguo, former vice-minister of the commerce ministry, said that China may cut down service trade with the US in view of the current trade conflict.

“China needs to have some countermeasures ready if the trade skirmish drags on,” he told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

The trade spate which is deteriorating into a trade war between the top two economies of the world began with Trump imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports into the US.

China retaliated by imposing additional tariffs worth about USD three billion on 128 US products.

Trump, while demanding China to reduce the USD 375 billion by USD 100 billion, retaliated with tariffs on USD 50 billion in Chinese products. In retaliation, China announced plans to impose new tariffs on 106 American products.

China said the date of implementation of the new tariff regime will depend on when the US government imposes the tariffs on Chinese products.

Yesterday, China went a step further, raising a formal complaint with the World Trade Organisation over the US’ decision to slap duties on Chinese steel and aluminium products.

But the US and Chinese officials are still trying to play down the possibility of a full-scale trade war, the Post report said.

Larry Kudlow, the White House’s National Economic Council director, said on Wednesday that both the countries still had time to work out their differences.

The US and Chinese officials favour using ‘close communication’ to avoid a full-blown trade war.

And after a meeting with acting US Secretary of State John Sullivan, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai underscored the need to remain in close communication to restore fairness and balance to economic ties.

“We will always stand for consultation and negotiation. Negotiation would still be our preference, but it takes two to tango,” Cui said.