The United States is set to impose tariffs on US$34 billion of Chinese imports from 0401 GMT on Friday (12:01pm Singapore time) and has warned it may ultimately target over US$500 billion worth of Chinese goods, or roughly the total amount that the United States imported from China past year.
China was previously slated to begin imposing its tariffs about 12 hours earlier due to the time difference, according to multiple reports.
"We of course don't want to fight a trade war, but if any country's legitimate interests are harmed, then of course that country has the right to firmly protect their own interests", Lu said.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) owes much of its legitimacy to the economic growth it has delivered to China over the last 40 years. USA tariffs on steel and aluminum imports have provoked retaliatory measures against billions of dollars of American exports.
But Asian financial markets took Friday's developments in stride. The Shanghai Composite index fell 1.1 per cent, after reaching more than a two-year low this week, while U.S. indices are expected to follow suit when they open later today.
The conflict between the world's two biggest economies reflects chronic tension in their relationship as customers, business partners, and increasingly competitors.
As Beijing fired back with tariffs of its own, it accused the USA of violating WTO rules and setting off "the largest trade war in economic history to date".
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 two biggest economies were set on a risky path toward a full-blown trade war.
President Donald Trump, warning of subsequent rounds of tariffs affecting pretty much all Chinese exports to the U.S.: "You have another 16 (billion dollars) in two weeks, and then, as you know, we have $200 billion in abeyance and then after the $200 billion, we have $300 billion in abeyance. Ok?"
And Chinese authorities quickly retaliated with equivalent tariffs on $34 billion worth of imported US goods - previously promised as ranging from vehicles to soybeans, beef and other agricultural products.
In particular, the United States "will impose a 25% tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China containing industrially significant technology, including those related to the "Made in China 2025" program", the statement said.
Chinese officials reject accusations they steal or force foreign companies to hand over technology.
Washington has strained relations with potential allies in its dispute with Beijing by raising import duties on steel, aluminum and autos from Europe, Canada, Mexico and Japan.
A staff member walks past U.S. and Chinese flags placed for a joint news conference by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China June 14, 2018.
Trump has railed against Beijing for intellectual property theft and barriers to entry for United States businesses and a $375 billion U.S. trade deficit with China.
"The Trump administration is behaving like a gang of hoodlums with its shakedown of other countries, particularly China", said an English-language article in the China Daily. "If this ends at $34 billion, it will have a marginal effect on both economies, but if it escalates to $500 billion like Trump said then it's going to have a big impact for both countries".
Beijing has said it will retaliate in equal measure.
The tariffs target a broad spectrum of Chinese goods - such as passenger vehicles, radio transmitters, aircraft parts and computer hard drives - from industries Washington says have benefited from unfair trade practices.
The American Chamber of Commerce in China appealed to both sides to negotiate a settlement. The motorcycle company announced last month it would move production out of the U.S.to get around the EU's retaliatory tariffs. "We urge the two governments to come back to the negotiation table".