Beijing has accused John Ratcliffe of slander after the US intelligence head said China posed the "greatest threat to America and freedom worldwide since World War II."

China and US have traded blows over coronavirus, trade, espionage, human rights, and media freedoms under President Trump's tenure.
China and US have traded blows over coronavirus, trade, espionage, human rights, and media freedoms under President Trump's tenure. (Reuters Archive)

Beijing has lashed out at a claim by the US intelligence chief that China is the "greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide" since World War II, calling it a "hodgepodge of lies."

The war of words comes as relations between the two superpowers have spiralled to their lowest point in decades and as Washington unveiled travel restrictions for members of the Chinese Communist Party.

US Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Thursday that Chinese spies were using economic pressure to influence or undermine US legislators.

"The People's Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide since World War II," he wrote.

Beijing hit back angrily on Friday.

"[Ratcliffe] only continues to repeat lies and rumours to slander and discredit China, and wantonly play up the Chinese threat," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

"I think this is yet another hodgepodge of lies that the US government has been cooking up lately."

Hua also accused the US of being "engaged in a Cold War mindset, advocating major power competition, and wantonly expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal."

READ MORE: China rebukes US for 'Open Skies Treaty' withdrawal

Blame game

The world's two biggest economies have traded blows over the coronavirus pandemic, trade and technology competition, espionage, human rights and media freedoms under US President Donald Trump's tenure.

The US has repeatedly alleged that China is a grave threat to national security and Western democratic values, while China has accused the US of seeking to contain its rise through unlawful means.

Under the new US travel rules, visas issued to party members and their immediate family will remain valid for just one month, and for a single entry.

Previously some visas were issued that permitted unlimited entries and could remain valid for as long as 10 years.

READ MORE: US tightens travel rules for China's ruling party members

'Stop damaging' US-China ties

The United States shut down the Chinese consulate in Houston in July, calling it a centre of espionage and harassment of Chinese nationals in the US.

In retaliation, Beijing ordered the US to vacate its consulate in Chengdu.

Hua on Friday called for the United States to "stop damaging US-China relations and US-China mutual trust and cooperation."

READ MORE: US-China relations worsen as Beijing's Houston consulate closed

Chinese firms targetted 

Also on Friday, China's securities regulator said that US legislation targeting US-listed Chinese companies is "clearly discriminatory."

The US Congress has passed legislation that would force Chinese firms to delist from US exchanges unless they abide by US accounting rules.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission said in a statement that China remains open to addressing US concerns via dialogue and cooperation.

READ MORE: Trump bars investment in companies that China 'uses to fund military'

Source: TRTWorld and agencies