The United States accused the Chinese authorities of "xenophobia" against Africans on Saturday after coronavirus cases among Nigerians triggered a wave of evictions in the city of Guangzhou.
Africans in southern China's largest metropolis told AFP that they had been thrown out of accommodation and then refused by hotels because of the suspicions raised by the Nigerian cases.
"The abuse and abuse of Africans living and working in China is a sad reminder of how hollow the PRC-Africa partnership really is," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman using the acronym for the People's Republic of China.
"At a time when we should support each other to recover from a pandemic that PRC officials have ruthlessly hidden from the world, Chinese officials are busy driving African students onto the streets without food or shelter . "
Over the past few weeks, the US has denounced Beijing's lack of transparency at the start of the coronavirus epidemic, which was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, and said it had delayed action in the rest of the world and claimed thousands of deaths.
Despite a ceasefire in their word war, skirmishes between the two world powers have continued, which have already been involved in a long-term strategic confrontation.
"It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the Chinese authorities are observing this kind of xenophobia towards Africans," added the State Department spokesman.
"Anyone who observes Chinese involvement in projects across Africa recognizes this type of abusive and manipulative behavior."
The treatment of Africans in Guangzhou was also rated "extremely concerned" by the President of the African Union on Saturday.
President Donald Trump's government has shown little interest in Africa since taking office in 2017.
But it has repeatedly warned of China's intentions on the continent, arguing that its investments and loans to African countries are less friendly.
"Promises to Africans, including those who work and study in China, are never kept as advertised," said the State Department spokesman.
"Treating people like this – especially students – during a global public health crisis says everything about how the PRC sees its so-called" partnership "with Africa."