Banners for China National Offshore Oil Corporation at a news conference in Hong Kong, China. Picture: REUTERS/BOBBY YIP
Banners for China National Offshore Oil Corporation at a news conference in Hong Kong, China. Picture: REUTERS/BOBBY YIP

Washington — The Trump administration has added China’s top chipmaker, SMIC, and oil giant CNOOC to a blacklist of alleged Chinese military companies, drawing condemnation from Beijing as president-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office.

The US department of defence designated a total of four additional companies as owned or controlled by the Chinese military, including China Construction Technology  and China International Engineering Consulting.

The move, first reported by Reuters on Sunday, takes to 35 the total number of blacklisted companies. While the list did not initially trigger any penalties, a recent executive order by Republican President Donald Trump will prevent US investors from buying the firms’ securities from late next year.

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesperson said China opposed US efforts to suppress its companies, adding that Washington’s moves run counter to principles of market competition.

“The US should stop abusing national power and national security concepts to suppress foreign companies,” Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing on Friday.

In a stock market statement, SMIC said it strongly opposes the decision, which reflected a fundamental misunderstanding by the US administration of the end-uses of its business and technology.

The company also said there was no major impact from its addition to the list. Its Hong Kong shares closed Friday down 5.4% after having resumed trading in the afternoon after a suspension.

CNOOC, formally known as China National Offshore Oil Corporation, said it was “shocked and regretful” at being added to the list. The move was based on “false and inaccurate information”, it said in a statement on its website.

In an exchange filing, the state-owned company’s listed arm, CNOOC, said it was assessing the impact of the situation on the group and would closely monitor developments. Shares of CNOOC fell nearly 14% after Sunday’s report, and tumbled 3.9% by Friday’s market close.

SMIC, which relies heavily on equipment from US suppliers, was already in Washington’s crosshairs. In September, the US commerce department informed some firms they needed to obtain a licence before supplying goods and services to SMIC after concluding there was an “unacceptable risk” that equipment supplied to it could be used for military purposes.

The expanded blacklist is seen as part of a bid to cement Trump’s tough-on-China legacy and to box Biden, the Democratic president-elect who takes office on January 20, into hardline positions on Beijing amid bipartisan anti-China sentiment in Congress.

The measure is also part of a broader effort by Washington to target what it sees as Beijing’s efforts to enlist corporations to harness emerging civilian technologies for military purposes.

The list of “communist Chinese military companies” was mandated by a 1999 law requiring the Pentagon to compile a catalogue of companies “owned or controlled” by the People’s Liberation Army, but the department of defence only compiled it in 2020.

Giants such as Hikvision, China Telecom and China Mobile were added this year.

In November, the White House published an executive order, first reported by Reuters, that sought to give teeth to the list by barring US investors from buying securities of the firms, from November 2021.

Top US asset managers Vanguard Group and BlackRock each own about 1% of shares of CNOOC’s listed unit CNOOC Ltd, and together own roughly 4% of outstanding shares of SMIC, disclosures show.

US Congress and the Trump administration have sought increasingly to curb the US market access of Chinese companies that do not comply with rules faced by American rivals, even if that means antagonising Wall Street.

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed a law to kick Chinese companies off US stock exchanges if they do not fully comply with the country’s auditing rules, giving Trump one more tool to threaten Beijing with before leaving office.

Reuters

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