The United States will push back on China’s targeting of American firms, which Washington considers politically motivated and unfair, U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said on Wednesday.
Several U.S. companies have faced increased scrutiny in China in recent months, including U.S. memory chipmaker Micron Technology Inc, which China’s cyberspace regulator said in May would be barred from selling to operators of key infrastructure.
Businesses groups have warned about the rise in China’s use of exit bans, pressure on foreign due diligence firms, and the vague wording of China’s new counterespionage law, which bans the transfer of any information related to national security and broadens the definition of spying.
Burns said five U.S. companies had been singled out by Chinese authorities in recent months: Micron, Deloitte, and consultancies Bain & Company, Capvision, and Mintz Group.
“It’s not happening to companies of other countries, but it is to ours,” Burns told a U.S. Global Leadership Coalition forum in Washington via video link from Beijing.
“It looks political in nature. It looks like payback from the Chinese perspective, and it’s wrong. And obviously we are going to resist this and we are going to push back,” Burns said.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has emphasized national security since taking office in 2012 as suspicion of the U.S. and its allies grows, but that focus contrasts with Beijing’s message that it is opening up to overseas investment.
The Biden administration has pushed to boost engagement with China even as ties have deteriorated over disputes ranging from military activity in the South China Sea, Beijing’s human rights record, and technology competition.
Chinese officials complain that Washington has put hundreds of Chinese companies under various U.S. sanctions or on export ban lists.
Burns said the U.S. was restricting American companies’ ability to sell technology such as advanced semiconductors to China so as to not give China’s military a “leg up.”
“While we compete, it is important that we manage that competition so that it has limits and barriers, and it is always a peaceful competition,” Burns said.