China may not want a trade war but it will hit back when provoked, Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told CNBC's Eunice Yoon on Wednesday.
"We must take some retaliation when people damage our interests," Zhu said, explaining the sweeping new tariffs his government announced on $50 billion worth of U.S. goods on Wednesday.
The new measures, which target 106 American products, are the latest in a rapidly intensifying tit-for-tat trade tussle first sparked by the Trump administration's decision to implement large tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports in early March. The goods in question include major U.S. exports like soybeans, cars and whiskey.
China's move comes less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump unveiled a list of Chinese imports that his administration aims to target as part of a crackdown on what the president deems unfair trade practices. Those include products used for robotics, information technology, communication technology and aerospace.
"No people can expect China to swallow everything which damages our legitimate interest. That's a principle we must follow," the vice minister said, while emphasizing that China does not want a trade war and hopes to find a "constructive way" to solve to the current impasse.
"It is time for the U.S. administration to change sides back to the right track, keep real dialogue with the Chinese side," he said. "We hope that we can work together."