China vows action over delisting of telcos by US

It will take 'necessary measures' to protect the firms which US says have military ties

The delisting highlights the faltering of long-established business ties between the US and China.
The delisting highlights the faltering of long-established business ties between the US and China.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI • China will take "necessary measures" to safeguard the interests of its companies after the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) began delisting three Chinese telecom firms that Washington says have military ties, China's Commerce Ministry said.

The NYSE last Thursday said it would delist China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, following President Donald Trump's move in November to bar American investment in 31 firms that Washington says are owned or controlled by the Chinese military.

"This kind of abuse of national security and state power to suppress Chinese firms does not comply with market rules and violates market logic," the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said yesterday in a statement.

"It not only harms the legal rights of Chinese companies, but also damages the interests of investors in other countries, including the United States," it added.

While the ministry said it will take action to protect its firms, it also called on the US to meet China halfway and put bilateral trade relations back on track.

In its final weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan 20, the Trump administration has stepped up its hardline stance against China.

The Commerce Department added dozens of Chinese companies to a trade blacklist last month, accusing Beijing of using its firms to harness civilian technologies for military purposes.

The NYSE said late on Thursday that it would halt trading in shares of China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom by Jan 11. The Department of Defence had previously listed the three companies as having significant connections to Chinese military and security forces.

The executive order issued in November by the Trump administration was part of a broader effort by Washington to weaken the extensive economic links between the US and China, including Chinese access to Wall Street money.

The move is likely to have little effect on China's military or security ambitions, which are generously funded by Beijing, or on the companies themselves, which can raise money by selling shares in Hong Kong.

Still, the delisting of the three telecom giants reflects China's rise in power and wealth. It also highlights the faltering of long-established business ties between the US and China, which were set up over decades as China sought to internationalise and reform its state-run corporate behemoths.

All three companies operate under Beijing's firm control. They are ultimately owned by a government agency, the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, and are often ordered to pursue Beijing's goals.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2021, with the headline 'China vows action over delisting of telcos by US'. Subscribe