China promises retaliation if US imposes more tariffs

BEIJING — China on Monday promised retaliation if U.S. President Donald Trump escalates their tariff battle, raising the risk Beijing might target operations of American companies as it runs out of imports for penalties.

The threat came after Trump said Friday that he was considering extending penalties to an additional $267 billion of Chinese products in their battle over Beijing’s technology policy. That would be on top of

$50 billion of goods already hit by 25 percent duties and another $200 billion on which Washington is poised to raise tariffs.

“If the United States insists on imposing another round of tariffs on Chinese products, China will definitely take countermeasures to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

Geng gave no details, but the government said in June it would impose unspecified “comprehensive measures” if necessary. That left American companies on edge about whether Beijing might use its control over the heavily regulated economy to disrupt their operations by withholding licenses or launching tax, anti-monopoly or other investigations.

China matched Washing­ton’s first round of tariff hikes on $50 billion of its goods, but their lopsided trade balance means Beijing is running out of imports for retaliation. The United States imported $3 of Chinese goods last year for every $1 of American goods bought by China.

Chinese leaders agreed in May to narrow that trade gap by purchasing more Amer­ican soybeans and other products. But they reject Trump’s demand to roll back official industry plans such as “Made in China 2025,” which calls for state-led creation of global champions in robotics, artificial intelligence and other technologies.

Washington, Europe and other trading partners argue those plans violate Beijing’s market-opening pledges. Amer­ican officials worry they might erode U.S. industrial dominance. But Comm­unist leaders see them as China’s path to prosperity and global influence.