The Trump administration said in a statement: "to protect national security, specifically intellectual property; the US intends to implement specific investment restrictions and enhanced export controls for Chinese persons and entities related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology".
President Donald Trump issued a memorandum on the tariffs in March, after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer issued a lengthy report about China's long practice of coercing U.S. companies to give up their technologies and trade secrets to do business in China, as well as in some cases outright theft of intellectual property.
In an unexpected change in tone, the United States said on Tuesday that it still held the threat of imposing tariffs on $50 billion of imports from China unless it addressed the issue of theft of American intellectual property.
The final list of items subject to the new tariffs will be released on June 15, with formal imposition of these duties occurring a few days later.
People walk by an electronic display panel advertising a video footage of Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking at the World Economy Forum on a street in Beijing, Wednesday, May 30, 2018.
US President Donald Trump has put a missile, in the form of trade sanctions, back on the launchpad, started fueling it, and programmed its computer to strike Beijing.
The commerce ministry said earlier Wednesday that Beijing "has the confidence, capability and experience to defend the interests of Chinese people and the core interests of the country" - no matter what measures the U.S. plans to take.
China responded the next day with a $50 billion list of its own, which heavily targeted agricultural and chemical products and which Beijing has vowed to impose as soon as the US moves forward with its tariffs.
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Navarro told NPR that the Trump administration is working to prevent China from stealing American intellectual property and evading export controls on militarily sensitive technology.
"We will counteract whatever comes our way, and if the U.S. insists on acting recklessly, China will inevitably adopt firm and forceful measures".
The decision comes as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to be in China early next month for talks to reduce the tensions over trade between the two countries.
If there is an upside to the roller-coaster ride of Sino-US trade relations, it is that Beijing has never seemed so set on pushing forward with innovative breakthroughs as it has as a result of Trump's constant reminders that China needs to develop its own core technologies.
The trade escalation came even after the two sides had agreed during talks in Washington this month to find steps to narrow China's US$375 billion trade surplus.
China's Commerce ministry said the U-S announcement was surprising, and urged the U-S to act in line with their previous agreement. Those tariffs will take effect "shortly thereafter". However, the big risk is that Beijing won't have any confidence in Ross to make a deal that Trump will accept. Ross will have less than two weeks to solve the knotty issue of trade before the tariffs get officially imposed, so there's not much room for error.
Trump is also under pressure from Congress to stay tough on China, especially Chinese telecoms-equipment maker ZTE Corp.
He said the two countries were in talks and had made "meaningful progress".