When the U.S. first embraced "de-risking” to get Europe on board with measures to deny key technology to China, officials in Beijing dismissed the term as no different than decoupling. Now they are trying a new strategy: redefining the concept.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang last week acknowledged the legitimacy of de-risking while speaking to CEOs on a trip to Germany, but said it should be decided by business leaders instead of governments. He also warned that risks shouldn’t be "exaggerated" — opening a discussion on what exactly poses a serious threat to national security.

Li touched on the theme again Tuesday at a high-profile economic forum in China known as "Summer Davos," where he told delegates "if there is risk in a certain industry, it’s not the call or decision of a particular organization or a single government.