Although both countries calculate the gap differently, the latest data from Beijing indicates a trade differential at a record high of $275.81 billion in 2017. That figure does not bode well for bilateral relations, which many expect to take a turn for the worse in 2018 after a year of relative inaction from Trump.
"The prevailing view in Washington now is that, this year, he is determined to bite somebody, and China is the most likely target," William Reinsch, the former president of the National Foreign Trade Council, told CNBC.
Trump himself told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday the U.S. was considering a big "fine" as part of a probe into China's alleged theft of intellectual property.
Experts in China are also widely expecting trade tensions to ratchet up.
Tu Guangshao, vice chairman and president of China Investment Corporation said he expects "trade friction," but not a "serious trade war," between the two major economies.
"The basic premise is that China-U.S. trade is not just benefits China, but in fact benefits the U.S. as well," Tu told delegates at The Asian Financial Forum on Monday, according to transcriptions of his comments.
Trump has consistently deemed trade with China unfair to America, but he's indicated that he had held back from further action as he sought Beijing's help in bringing North Korea's nuclear ambitions under control.
Any broad-based action could be detrimental for both sides, as trade between the world's two largest economies has been growing in spite of differences — China is America's largest single trading partner.