Beijing has vowed to immediately respond with an equal amount of tariffs of its own against USA autos, agricultural and other products, but it was unclear how swiftly the actions could escalate into an all-out trade war.
Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said the proposed U.S. tariffs would hit many American and foreign companies operating in China and disrupt their supplies of components and assembly work.
Chinese currency and stock markets have been jittery ahead of Friday's tariff implementation.
Noting reports that the usa could add a tax on essentially every product shipped from China, Gao said "using the tariff stick to bully on trade runs against the trend of the times".
China's commerce ministry earlier Friday accused the USA of launching the "largest trade war in economic history", saying it could trigger "global market turmoil".
But the list of $16bn in goods targeted for tariffs include Snow Joe tillers, garden cultivators and log splitters, and imposing duties only means higher prices for consumers and added cost and uncertainty for businesses, he said.
"There's areas where China has very competitive technologies that maybe we're collaborating on and the Chinese may say we'll do it with the Europe or Japanese or go it alone". The products, all sold on Chinese e-commerce platforms, ranged from pet food to mixed nuts and whiskey.
The Trump administration is "behaving like a gang of hoodlums", it says.
But Asian financial markets took Friday's developments in stride.
In addition to Friday's tariffs and in response to China's retaliation in June, Mr Trump has ordered tariffs on $200bn worth of imports and threatened tariffs on another $200bn.
The US trade deficit in goods with China ballooned to a record $375.2 billion a year ago, further stoking Trump's ire.
As for the wider aspect, analysts expect this first round of tariffs won't do major immediate damage; however, a drawn-out battle could disrupt the global economy.
Asked whether US companies would be targeted with "qualitative measures" in China in a trade war, Gao said the government would protect the legal rights of all foreign companies in the country.
An industry source told Reuters earlier that Grenell had mentioned to the executives that Trump could abandon his threats if the European Union scrapped duties on USA cars imported into the bloc. He told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday, "You have another 16 (billion dollars) in two weeks, and then, as you know, we have $200bn in abeyance and then after the $200bn, we have $300bn in abeyance. Ok?"
The start of the trade war likely confirms the widening rupture between Trump and his own Republican Party, a traditional champion of free trade and big business whose members, while critical, have so-far shrunk from curtailing the White House's trade powers.
"Its unruliness looks set to have a profoundly damaging impact on the global economic landscape in the coming decades, unless countries stand together to oppose it".
Gao also said U.S. business interests would suffer from the first set of tariffs, with about US$20 billion of the targeted goods, or 59 per cent, produced by foreign firms, including U.S. ones.
Under the banner of his "America First" policy, Trump has also targeted other traditional trade partners of the USA, such as the European Union, Japan, Mexico and even Canada.