Trumptold reporters during the announcement of the tariffs that China and other countries had taken advantage of the U.S. for too long and the president's goal was to reduce the $375 billion trade deficit with the country. A 25 percent tariff on pork and aluminum imports is also being considered.
Though, it has shown its readiness to negotiate an agreement with the U.S. to avoid a trade war.
A former Chinese finance minister said at the China Development Forum in Beijing that the commerce ministry's response so far had been relatively weak.
The commerce ministry said China would implement the measures in two stages: first the 15 percent tariff on 120 products including steel pipes and wine worth $977 million, and later, the higher 25 percent tariff on $1.99 billion of pork and aluminum. Earlier this month, Trump signed an order to slap taxes of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum products imported from countries including China.
"We strongly call on the USA government to work together with the Chinese government to resolve disputes in a constructive way and avert the outbreak of a trade war", it said in a statement on its website.
According to estimates by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a USA technology policy think tank, a 25-percent tariff on Chinese information and communications technology (ICT) imports would cost the US economy 332 billion dollars over the next 10 years.
The measures were specifically in response to United States steel and aluminium tariffs, which were taking effect Friday.
As an economist and expert in global trade, I don't see how the proposed tariffs will resolve either one.
The Chinese picked U.S. farm exports because they would affect the largest number of people and make Trump unpopular ahead of a midterm election. Trump said that the amount could be even bigger, at "about $60 billion".
"We firmly oppose the unilateralism and trade protectionism of the United States", it said.
Wine imported from the U.S.is displayed at a supermarket in Beijing in 2011.
Betty Wang, an economist at ANZ bank, said China's reaction is "relatively mild".
Mr Trump has made good on his election promise to confront China - and reduce the US$500 billion trade deficit between the rival superpowers.
The Commerce Ministry said the higher USA tariffs "seriously undermine" the global trading system.
"Actions taken outside these collective processes greatly increase the risk of escalation in a confrontation that will have no winners, and which could quickly lead to a less stable trading system", said Roberto Azevedo.
"The United States is taking action at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to address China's unfair technology practices that run counter to WTO rules", the statement from the US Trade Representative's office said. "China should first take measures to deal a blow to the industries in US states that helped Trump win the 2016 presidential election and those states whose political leaders are still backing him in this year's midterm election".
Since 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organisation, its economy has grown from United States dollars 1 trillion of GDP to USD 12 trillion; roughly an 800 per cent growth rate.
"This is number one, but it's the first of many", Donald Trump said. The sparring between China and the US has cast a spotlight on hardware makers such as Apple, which assemble the majority of their products in China for export to other countries. He has shown few signs of acquiescing to USA pressure.
The European Union, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Canada and Mexico will get initial exemptions from looming steel and aluminum tariffs from the Trump administration.
The country could also take further measures, such as targeting U.S. agriculture - 60 percent of U.S. soya beans are sold to China.
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