'As we always said we don't want to start the trade war but we are not afraid'
China wants to reach an initial trade deal with the United States, President Xi Jinping said Friday, but is "not afraid" to fight back when necessary and will enact economic reforms at its own pace.
It is rare for Xi to speak so directly about the trade war, and his comments come two days after US President Donald Trump complained that Beijing had not made sufficient concessions so far, making him reluctant to conclude a bargain.
The world's two biggest economies have been locked in a bruising trade conflict for more than a year, hitting each other with volleys of tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods.
"As we always said we don't want to start the trade war but we are not afraid," Xi told former US officials and other foreign dignitaries at a meeting at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.
"When necessary we will fight back but we have been working actively to try not to have a trade war," he told the group, which included former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former US treasury secretary Henry Paulson and Trump's former economic adviser Gary Cohn.
Trump on October 11 announced a "phase one" deal resolving important US grievances about Chinese trade and currency practices.
But the two sides have yet to ink the deal.