China isn’t seeking to confront or replace the United States as the world’s top technological power, but will fight back against “malicious slander” and attacks from Washington, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Friday, responding to a litany of recent accusations from the Trump administration.

Hua Chunying said China’s chief concern was improving the livelihoods of its citizens and maintaining global peace and stability, despite what critics say is an increasingly aggressive foreign policy that looks to expand Chinese influence in the military, technology, economic and other spheres.

“As an independent sovereign state, China has the right to safeguard its own sovereignty, security and development interests, to defend the achievements made by the Chinese people with hard work, to refuse any bullying and injustice against China, and to fight back against malicious slander and attacks by the U.S. against China,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.

Her comments came in response to a speech Thursday by Attorney General William Barr in which he cautioned American business leaders against promoting policies favorable to Beijing. He asserted that China at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic had not only dominated the market on protective gear, exposing American dependence on Beijing, but had also hoarded supplies and blocked producers from exporting them to countries in need.

Barr also accused hackers linked to the Chinese government of targeting American universities and businesses to steal research related to coronavirus vaccine development, leveling the allegation against Beijing hours after Western agencies made similar claims against Russia.

“The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in an economic blitzkrieg — an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government (indeed, whole-of-society) campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent technological superpower,” Barr said.

Numerous Trump allies have issued strongly worded messages over China in recent days, coming at a time when bilateral relations have fallen to their lowest point in decades over issues from accusations of technology theft to China’s claims in the South China Sea.

Hua dismissed Barr’s accusations of cybertheft related to vaccine development as “absurd.”

“Because everyone knows that China is in a leading position in the research and development of new coronavirus vaccines, we have first-class scientific research personnel, and we do not need to gain a leading position with theft,” Hua said.

Chinese companies have moved swiftly to develop a coronavirus vaccine, as countries compete for the prestige and profits that would come with being the first to bring such a product to market.

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