US efforts to sanction some of China’s biggest and most successful companies in telecommunication and artificial intelligence (AI) will not hurt “the fundamentals” of the country’s science and technology development, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said.

MIIT spokesman Huang Libin said on Tuesday that while some industries and exports have seen an impact from a decision by Washington to ban the sale of US technology to some companies, these short-term fluctuations won’t affect the long-term development of Chinese science and technology.

“Facing the hi-tech blockades brought about by the US, we have confidence that China’s science and technology can overcome the difficulties and break the bottleneck to achieve breakthroughs,” Huang told reporters at a regular briefing in Beijing.

A space suit at an exhibition of high technologies and equipment in Yinchuan, northwest China. (Picture: Xinhua)

Technology competition has become the crux of the US-China relationship. In early October, Washington expanded its trade blacklist, or Entity List, to include some of China’s top AI companies, which were accused of helping the ruling Communist Party mistreat Uygur Muslims and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities.

The blacklist decision, which immediately drew a rebuke from Beijing, targets 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies, including video surveillance giant Hikvision as well as facial recognition start-ups SenseTime and Megvii Technology, many of which have gained prominence as they expand outside their domestic market. It followed a similar move by Washington in May against Huawei Technologies as part of ongoing US efforts to limit the influence of the Chinese telecoms leader over national security concerns.

The knock-on effect of the growing entity list has fueled concerns of a decoupling in the global tech supply chain, creating two separate tech ecosystems with different standards and systems. Many Chinese technology providers depend on US chips and software for products used by domestic and international customers. If blocked from using US technology, they will have to find alternatives.

However, Huang said China will not close its doors and “blindly” rely on Chinese-made technology.

“We will not decouple from the development of international industries and we will further open up to foreign investment in the telecommunications, internet and auto sectors,” he said.

He said China will look at the trade friction with the US with “an open mind and a big heart” but will also “closely monitor” the Entity List to adopt appropriate measures to defend its rights and interests.

Seen as cheap copycats just a few years ago, the rapid rise of Chinese tech companies on the global stage has triggered alarm in the West. The latest global Chinese company to come under scrutiny is Beijing-based ByteDance, operator of the popular mobile app TikTok, which allows users to share and edit short videos. The app’s huge success – it was the most downloaded app in the US last year – even drew criticism from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

In a talk on free speech at Georgetown University on October 17, Zuckerberg called out TikTok, criticizing it for censoring protest content. That was in contrast to a Q&A session he had with employees in July, where the Facebook founder praised TikTok for its global reach, especially its success in India, saying the Chinese app had “married short-form, immersive video with browse.” Recordings of the remarks, made in private, were later leaked to media.

In the Beijing briefing on Tuesday, MIIT defended TikTok, describing it as an “excellent” representative of China-made apps. Wen Ku, another MIIT spokesperson, said “going out” not only meant new markets for Chinese internet companies but also providing good services and development opportunities to other countries.

Wen also said it was important for Chinese companies expanding overseas to actively “adapt to cultural differences and fit into local culture.”