On its own, the news would be barely a blip on the national radar, but amid a heated trade battle between the Chinese government and U.S. President Donald Trump and team, it has ignited (another) round of ethical questions about whether the Trump family is profiting from the presidency.
"We feel surprised by the tactical statement issued by the White House, and yet it was also unsurprising", an unnamed spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in the statement released by Xinhua, the official news agency.
"The thinking became that if the USA doesn't have any leverage and there is no pressure on our Chinese friends, then we will not have serious negotiations".
Chinese state media criticised a U.S. announcement that it would press ahead with restrictions on investment by Chinese companies, saying on Wednesday that Beijing was ready to fight back if Washington was looking to reignite a trade war. The White House repeated it will slap a hefty 25 per cent tariff on as much as $50bn worth of imports.More news: Subtropical Storm Alberto brings rain, wind gusts to Northeast Florida
Pang Zhongying, a professor of global relations at Ocean University of China, said that while the White House's announcement was probably made with one eye on the midterm polls, it was a clear reminder that the trade dispute was still very much alive.
The White House also said Tuesday that it would place new restrictions on Chinese investment into the United States and limit US exports of high-tech goods to China. The reduction to $50 billion is a sign of Trump's standard approach to negotiations: ask for way more than you can get and settle for a better deal than most would deem possible. Earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that the trade talks between the two countries scheduled for June 2 in Beijing may be derailed by the fresh threat from Washington.
The latest step follows a March report by the US Trade Representative Office, which undertook a seven-month investigation of China's handling of technology transfers and intellectual property, according to the White House's statement.
Given ZTE's dependency on United States technology, his actions brought the Chinese company to the brink of bankruptcy, forcing Xi Jinping to plead for Trump's mercy.More news: Centre working on long-term solution on fuel price hike: Pradhan
The full list of imports that will be subject to the 25% tariffs will be announced by 15 June, the White House said.
William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said the US threat of tariffs appeared to have been "somewhat effective".
The White House said the policies included forced technology transfer; requiring licensing at less than economic value; state-directed acquisition of sensitive U.S. technology for strategic purposes; and outright cybertheft.
Analysts in the United States suggested the newly confrontational stance also might be aimed at appeasing congressional critics of a deal the Trump administration made Friday that allowed Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp.to stay in business. The statement did not reiterate China's own previous threats to impose $50 billion in retaliatory tariffs on US goods.More news: Happy GDPR Day! Google, Facebook hit with $8.8 billion in lawsuits
"We want to reiterate that we don't want a trade war, but we aren't afraid of fighting one", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing on Wednesday.