China has accused the United States of “economic bullying” over a Washington proposal to block US telecom carriers buying from Chinese high-tech companies Huawei and ZTE.

The US Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, unveiled the proposed rules on Monday

Carriers will have to remove any existing Huawei and ZTE equipment as part of an initiative to “safeguard the nation’s communications networks.”

The two Chinese firms have been accused of posing a national security threat because of their close ties to the Beijing government, claims they have denied.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed the US plan as an attempt to “oppress certain Chinese businesses with groundless accusations.”

“The United States’ economic bullying goes against the market principles which the US has always trumpeted,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a news briefing, adding that the move would ultimately hurt US businesses.

“We need to make sure our networks won’t harm our national security, threaten our economic security, or undermine our values.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the decision would bar communications companies from using any support they receive from the government’s Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment or services from companies “posing a national security threat,” including Huawei and ZTE.

The proposal, which will be voted on November 19, marks the latest effort by Washington to penalise Huawei, a major telecom infrastructure provider and smartphone maker that is already on a blacklist preventing it from access to certain US tech products and services.

“When it comes to 5G and America’s security, we can’t afford to take a risk and hope for the best,” Pai said in a statement.

“We need to make sure our networks won’t harm our national security, threaten our economic security, or undermine our values.”

Huawei countered the allegations by saying that Washington had provided no proof of any security risks posed by the company.

“In 30 years of business, Huawei has never had a major security-related incident in the 170 countries where we operate,” the statement said. “Banning specific vendors based on country origin will do nothing to protect America’s telecommunications networks.”

– AFP