Beijing said it would be “forced to make a necessary counterattack” after US tariffs on $34bn of Chinese goods came into effect.
The 25% duties imposed by America apply to Chinese machinery, electronics and other high-tech equipment including cars, computer hard drives and LEDs.
Tariffs on an additional $16 billion of Chinese goods are set to take effect in two weeks, President Trump has said.
The US is prepared to target up to $500bn more, he has warned, unless Beijing yields to Washington’s demands.
Mr Trump’s administration contends that China has deployed predatory tactics to try to overtake US technological dominance.
These allegedly include requiring American companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to China’s market.
China’s Commerce Ministry said it would be “forced to make a necessary counterattack”.
While it gave no immediate details, China previously released a list of US goods it might potentially target including soybeans, light aircraft, orange juice and whiskey.
The China Daily newspaper accused the Trump administration of “behaving like a gang of hoodlums”.
“There should be no doubting Beijing’s resolve,” it added.
The American Chamber of Commerce in China said US companies wanted fairer treatment but would be hurt by US-Chinese tensions.
“There are no winners in a trade war,” said its chairman, William Zarit,
“We urge the two governments to come back to the negotiation table,” he added.
It may be some time before the effect of the tariffs is clear.
“It will take three, six or 12 months before their impact becomes visible,” Tokyo branch manager for State Street Bank and Trust, Bart Wakabayashi, said.