China has lashed out at renewed threats from the White House on trade, warning that it was ready to fight back if Washington was looking for a trade war, days ahead of a planned visit by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
In an unexpected change in tone, the United States said on Tuesday that it still held the threat of imposing tariffs on $US50 billion ($A66 billion) of imports from China unless Beijing addressed the issue of theft of American intellectual property.
Washington also said it will press ahead with restrictions on investment by Chinese companies in the United States as well as export controls for goods exported to China.
Its tougher stance comes as President Donald Trump prepares for a June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose key diplomatic backer is China, and as Washington steps up efforts to counter what it sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
The trade escalation came after the two sides had agreed during talks in Washington earlier this month to find steps to narrow China's $US375 billion trade surplus. Ross is expected to try and get China to agree to firm numbers to buy more US goods during a June 2-4 visit to the Chinese capital.
"We urge the United States to keep its promise, and meet China halfway in the spirit of the joint statement," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing, adding that China would take "resolute and forceful" measures to protect its interests if Washington insists upon acting in an "arbitrary and reckless manner".
"When it comes to international relations, every time a country does an about face and contradicts itself, it's another blow to, and a squandering of, its reputation," Hua said.
China has said it will respond in kind to threats by Trump to impose tariffs on up to $US150 billion of Chinese goods.
The International Monetary Fund called on China and the United States to settle their trade dispute.
"We think it's important that both sides try to collaborate, to de-escalate and avoid any kind of tensions," IMF representative Alfred Schipke told journalists in Beijing.
The trade frictions are indirectly affecting the countries' consumers, investors and the financial markets, he said.
"These trade tensions are not beneficial for anybody," Schipke said, as he presented the results of the IMF's annual mission to China.
The IMF maintained its 6.6 per cent growth forecast for China's GDP this year, down from 6.9 per cent last year.