The United States buys little Chinese steel and aluminum, but analysts said Beijing was certain to retaliate, partly to show its toughness ahead of possible bigger disputes.
Chinese officials have said Beijing is willing to negotiate, but in a confrontation will “fight to the end.”
“China has already prepared for the worst,” said Liu Yuanchun, executive dean of the National Academy of Development Strategy at Renmin University in Beijing. “The two sides, therefore, should sit down and negotiate.”
The dispute reflects the clash between Trump’s promise to narrow the U.S. trade surplus with China — a record $375.2 billion last year — and Beijing’s ambitious plans to develop Chinese industry and technology.
Last July, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin complained the Chinese government’s dominant role in China’s economy was to blame for its yawning trade surplus.
State-owned companies dominate Chinese industries including oil and gas, telecoms, banking, coal mining, utilities and airlines. They benefit from monopolies and low-cost access to energy, land and bank loans.