United States revoked visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers by labelling them to be a security risk.
The move comes after U.S. President Donald Trump in May aimed at Chinese nationals suspected of having ties to the military. He said some had stolen data and intellectual property.
China has accused the US of racial discrimination.
Nearly 370,000 students from China enrolled at US universities in 2018-19.
A state department spokeswoman described those whose visas were revoked as “high-risk graduate students and research scholars”.
She said they were a “small subset” of the total number of Chinese students.
“We continue to welcome legitimate students and scholars from China who do not further the Chinese Communist Party’s goals of military dominance,” the spokeswoman said.
The Chinese foreign ministry denounced the move at a daily media briefing in Beijing.
“This is outright political persecution and racial discrimination. It seriously violates the human rights of these Chinese students,” spokesman Zhao Lijian said, adding that China reserved the right to “further respond”.
Many Chinese students in the US say they are facing increased hostility and suspicion on university campuses, and their reasons for studying being questioned.