Donald Trump and Xi Jinping Photograph:( AFP )
The move came as the superpowers also feuded over the coronavirus pandemic, with US President Donald Trump provocatively branding it the 'Chinese virus'.
China has announced that it will expel American journalists from three major US newspapers, in one of the communist government's biggest crackdowns on the foreign press and escalating a bitter row with Washington.
The decision, effective immediately, will require US nationals working for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal to return their press accreditation within 10 days, if their credentials expire before the end of 2020.
The move came as the superpowers also feuded over the coronavirus pandemic, with US President Donald Trump provocatively branding it the "Chinese virus".
China said the expulsions were in retaliation for Washington's decision to cut the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work for its state-run media on American soil.
"In recent years, the US government has placed unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media agencies and personnel in the US, purposely made things difficult for their normal reporting assignments, and subjected them to growing discrimination and politically-motivated oppression," China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
The expulsions "are legitimate and justified self-defence in every sense,'' it added.
It said the journalists at the three newspapers must hand back their credentials within 10 days, and highlighted they would also not be able to work in the semi-autonomous cities of Hong Kong and Macau.
Beijing also ordered the papers, as well as Voice of America and Time magazine, to declare in writing their staff, finances, operations and real estate in China rules similar to those recently imposed on Chinese state media by Washington.
The foreign ministry said the measures "are entirely necessary and reciprocal" moves that China "is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the US".
Watch: China revokes 3 American Journalists of Wall Street Journal
The row was ignited last month when the US reclassified Chinese state-run media operating in the United States as foreign missions.
China then expelled three other Wall Street Journal reporters, two Americans and one Australian, over what it deemed a racist headline by the US newspaper.
Those were the first outright expulsions by China of a foreign journalist since 1998, according to the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said following the latest move against the three newspapers that China was wrong to equate state-run media, which answer to Beijing, and independent US news outlets that can freely report and ask critical questions.
"I regret China's decision today to further foreclose the world's ability to conduct the free press operations that, frankly, would be really good for the Chinese people in these incredibly challenging global times, where more information, more transparency are what will save lives," Pompeo said in a statment on Wednesday.