Lawmakers are moving to block Chinese telecommunications companies from doing business in the U.S., reportedly in response to concerns about security.
Suspicions about the Chinese using telecommunications to spy on Americans isn’t anything new.
In 2012, Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers held a news conference to bring attention to what he said were “numerous allegations” that Chinese companies, including Huawei and ZTE, allowed Chinese access to American data, according to the Washington Post.
In 2013, former National Security Agency (NSA) head Michael Hayden told reporters he was aware of “hard evidence” Huawei works with the Chinese government to provide information on the countries with which it does business.
In 2016 Chinese spyware was discovered on 700 Android devices from Huawei, which is now the third largest device manufacturer in the world behind Apple and Samsung.
— CircleID (@circleid) January 19, 2018
But now lawmakers are stepping up their rhetoric. Just this month, AT&T ditched plans to offer Huawei phones and are now being urged by members of Congress to sever the relationship with the Chinese company altogether. A huge blow to Huawei who was left with the bad news and a cancelled round table at CES 2018 where they were set to announce an agreement with AT&T. That could prove problematic for AT&T, Huawei’s bottom line and others in the race to build out 5G service in the U.S.
Here’s one rumor circulating about the last-minute move.
Theory going around: AT&T backed out of its deal w/ Huawei (https://t.co/oky4Lb5qZf) to avoid ticking off Donald Trump and his administration as it tries merging with Time Warner. Belief is that AT&T didn't want association w/ a company accused of spying for the Chinese gov't.
— Justin Herrick (@JustHerrick) January 8, 2018
“The next wave of wireless communication has enormous economic and national security implications. China’s participation in setting the standards and selling the equipment raises many national security issues that demand strict and prompt attention,” Michael Wessel, a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, set up by Congress told CNBC.
The report adds lawmakers are also against China Mobile being issued a license to operate in the U.S. Republican Congressman Michael Conway and Congresswoman Liz Cheney have introduced a bit baring the U.S. government from contracting with Huawei and ZTE.
But if the security threat has been known, why is Congress only acting now? First is the Trump administration’s hard line on Chinese trade, which is putting strain on relations between the U.S. and a variety of Chinese government-backed companies like Alibaba, which has been blacklisted by the Trump administration, added to the 2017 Notorious Markets List for “engaging in and facilitating substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting.,” according to The Diplomat.
This is canary in coal mine of growing US payback sentiment re:China. Economic confrontation looming. Not just Trump. Cld get nasty.
Exclusive: U.S. lawmakers urge AT&T to cut commercial ties with Huawei – sources https://t.co/1xP1xPA3PD
— Robert Manning (@Rmanning4) January 16, 2018
The ratcheting up of pressure on Chinese companies in the U.S. also comes amidst new accusations from the Trump administration the Chinese government is continuing to trade with North Korea, in direct violation of sanctions against the regime.
AT&T isn’t commenting, according to CNBC on how the standoff between the governments of the United States and China might effect their and other carriers’ built out of 5G networks.
We will continue to watch as deadlines for 5G rollout approach, not just for AT&T, but other carriers as well. Stay tuned.
Featured image: Pixabay