China's top legislative body has passed an anti-sanctions law, providing legal backing for Beijing's measures to counter foreign sanctions.
The legislation was passed on Thursday at the closing session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, but details of the law have not yet been made public.
State media said the move was intended to provide a legal basis for China to respond to sanctions. China has issued counter-sanctions in response to sanctions against it from the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada over Beijing's political crackdown in Hong Kong and treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
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But there have been concerns among foreign companies over the lack of transparency around the legislative process and the potential impact on businesses in China, which analysts say will need to be wary of being linked to foreign entities under Chinese sanctions.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that the passage of the new law showed China's determination to protect its sovereignty and core interests, and would not affect its relations with other countries.
The anti-sanctions law was announced on Monday night by state media and underwent a second reading but skipped a third, in the same way the National Security Law for Hong Kong went through the legislative process.
The new law is the strongest tool so far for China to respond to foreign sanctions, after the commerce ministry in January issued a "blocking statue" requiring Chinese companies to report foreign restrictions on economic or trade activities. It had last September unveiled an unreliable entity list for foreign businesses.
Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University's law school, has been involved in the consultations over the new legislation. He said the draft of the law was first read in April, after the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed an act to counter competition from China.
He said discussion about the law started last year when Donald Trump was still US president, but China was waiting to see how Trump's successor Joe Biden would approach relations with China.
"The central leadership was already considering it last year, and the academic community has made suggestions," he said. "The relevant legislative department has conducted research. The timing is based on Biden's China policies."
New restrictions on Chinese companies were among the developments that had dismayed Beijing, he said.
"It is the US first playing the cards, then China responding by playing its own card," he said. "When the timing is right, the law will be launched quickly, because we already have made preparations."
Additional reporting by Catherine Wong
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