The ministry called the U.S. actions "a violation of world trade rules" and said that it had "initiated the largest-scale trade war in economic history".
Trump has said he is prepared to impose tariffs on up to $550 billion in Chinese imports - a figure that exceeds the $506 billion in goods that China shipped to the US past year.
United States tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese imports took effect as a deadline passed on Friday, and with Beijing having vowed to respond immediately in kind, the world's two biggest economies took a high-stakes turn towards all-out trade conflict.
"China promised that it would not fire first, but it has been forced to take necessary measures to defend the core interests of the country and its people", the statement said.
While the world focuses on China tariffs, officials at the US Commerce Department are said to be referring to this week as "retaliation week", as responses from targets of the Trump administration's trade policy take effect.
"Generally speaking we're not going to get caught up in the tariffs the U.S. is applying to China because we have a different export profile", said Jacobi, who is executive director of the NZ International Business Forum. "Some firms may cut China out of their supply chain, but in other cases it will make economic sense to move USA production overseas".
China's imports from the U.S. were just US$130 billion previous year and so Beijing does not have the capacity to hit back in kind, raising speculation it could respond by creating administrative headaches for companies in China.
The US trade deficit in goods with China now stands at about $375bn.
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The other semifinal will be played on Wednesday between the winners of England-Sweden and Croatia-Russia. Four years ago at home they were humiliated with a 7-1 defeat in the semi-final to Germany.
"Imposing 25% tariffs on United States whiskeys could put the brakes on an American export success story", Christine LoCascio, senior vice president for worldwide trade at the Council, said in a statement.
Beijing has accused the United States of "firing on the whole world" with the measures, pointing out that most of the Chinese exports under attack are largely made by companies with foreign investment - including from America. The yuan, which has weakened sharply against a broadly strong US dollar in recent weeks, was trading at 6.6480 per dollar as of 4:30 p.m.
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.
Late Friday, China announced it was expanding its existing complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organization, hours after the countries slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars of cross-border trade. The rest of the world would suffer collateral damage, even if the U.S. were to refrain from penalising imports from other countries.
Top trade representatives from China and the USA have held trade negotiations in recent months.
This ship, carrying tons of US soybeans, had been racing against the clock across the sea, trying to arrive in Dalian port before the tariff war started.
The new tariffs had little impact on Asian stock markets.
Later in the day, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said it had filed a challenge against the additional USA tariff implementation with the WTO.
Trump ran for the White House on a vow to reverse decades of US policy by scrapping deals that he said put American manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage and by forcing USA trading partners to shrink their trade surpluses with the United States. "I think products made in China are the best", said one shopper in a Beijing grocery story, who gave his name as Yang.