WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Chinese governments have been flashing a lot of bravado just before firing the first shots in a conflict that risks erupting into a mutually damaging trade war.

"China will not bow in the face of threats and blackmail, nor will it be shaken in its resolve to defend global free trade," a spokesman for Beijing's Commerce Ministry declared Thursday, one day before the two sides were to subject billions of dollars of each other's goods to tariffs.

President Donald Trump, who ran for the White House on a vow to force China and other nations to reform their policies, has insisted a trade war would be easy to win.

Yet among the people and business under threat from higher costs and closed-off markets, there's far less confidence.