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China accuses U.S. of abuse, discrimination after Ant Group report

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the Trump administration of bullying on Thursday during a regular press briefing in Beijing. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the Trump administration of "bullying" on Thursday during a regular press briefing in Beijing. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 15 (UPI) -- China vowed to take measures in response to media reports of a U.S. plan to blacklist Ant Group, China's biggest mobile payments company, which is owned and controlled by Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Thursday the Trump administration was engaging in "bullying practice" and was abusing national security and state power to "wantonly suppress foreign businesses."

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"China will continue to take necessary measures to safeguard Chinese businesses' legitimate rights and interests," Zhao said at a regular press briefing at the ministry.

Zhao also suggested the United States was not abiding by fair trade rules and was discriminating against Chinese companies.

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Chinese condemnation of a potential U.S. blacklisting comes at a time of high economic tensions between Washington and Beijing. This year, the Trump administration labeled China's Huawei Technologies a national security threat and banned the sale of Huawei hardware to U.S. government agencies. Social media platform TikTok is also under U.S. scrutiny and could shut down in the United States unless a deal is reached with U.S. investors.

Restrictions against Ant Group were under discussion among senior U.S. officials ahead of its initial public offering in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Bloomberg reported last week. The IPO is estimated to be about $35 billion and the company was expected to go public before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3.

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Ant Group's Alipay mobile app is unlikely to be significantly affected by a U.S. decision to blacklist the company, as nearly all its sales occur in China.

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China has been warning of a retaliatory blacklist of "unreliable" foreign firms and individuals since May amid tensions with the United States over Huawei. On Wednesday, state tabloid Global Times reported Chinese authorities plan to enforce a new personal data protection law that would punish potential "illegal data collection" by foreign firms.

The Global Times mentioned past data leak incidents around the world involving Twitter and Facebook in the article. Illegal data collection could result in a fine of more than $7 million, the Global Times said.

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