China's ruling Communist Party is taking a newly aggressive approach in how it portrays the worsening trade dispute with the United States — projecting stability and stirring up nationalistic sentiment in the process.

The harder line comes after days of muted official responses to President Donald Trump's decision to hike tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. Escalating the antagonism, China retaliated Monday with higher tariffs on $60 billion worth of American goods, raising duties of 5% to 25%.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, China's most powerful leader in decades, has shepherded the country's rise to prominence and nurtured the growth of a red-blooded but tightly controlled nationalism.

The approach shows a new willingness to allow a shift in domestic public opinion where the trade war is concerned, experts say.