Last month, China Tech Threat’s Co-Founder John Strand spoke about the future security challenges at the Parliamentary Intelligence-Security Forum (PI-SF) at the Latin American Parliament, or Parlatino, in Panama. The gathering brought together leading US Senators like Bill Cassidy and Marco Rubio; the President of Panama Laurentino Cortizo, members of the European Parliament, and international policymakers working in cybersecurity, anti-money laundering, and cryptocurrency PI-SF is the brainchild of Robert Pittenger, a former Congressman who led efforts to strengthen US policy toward China, notably with the FIRRMA and ECRA bills updating the Committee on Foreign Investment and export controls (ECRA). Pittenger co-authored a paper on reforms at CFIUS with China Tech Threat co-founder Roslyn Layton.
Strand’s message was simple: policymakers must distinguish between national security and trade. The two policies are separate and cannot be “balanced.” He emphasized the difference between doing business with China and keeping vulnerable Chinese information technology equipment out of networks. He noted the consumers should have a right to at least one communications network free from Chinese government technology like Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo and others.
Strand described the sea change in Europe with respect to Chinese hardware and the efforts to develop clean networks. For example, until recently in Belgium it was impossible to choose a telecom operator which did not have exposure to Huawei or ZTE. This was an unacceptable risk for a country which houses the headquarters of the European Union, NATO, and many defense and pharmaceutical firms. Fortunately, in late 2020 telecom operators Proximus and Orange upgraded their networks with secure, non-Chinese equipment for 5G. This is not just an issue for Brussels or big cities; consider Puurs, Belgium, the European epicenter for the COVID19 vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech will likely demand additional measures to secure their networks, as China’s state-sponsored hackers have targeted vaccine-related information.
However significant problems remain, particularly in Germany, a significant outpost of the US military. Every time the Germany-based US Commanding General Christopher Cavoliare of United States Army Europe and Africa, his staff, or his family use a mobile phone, their traffic is sent through a Chinese mobile network. General Christopher Cavoliare and the rest of the people in Germany can’t get a network free from Chinese government tech.
Strand’s many reports describe how many European countries have ripped and replaced Chinese network equipment and policy efforts to develop more secure networks.
Listen to the 5G discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2qCOSL0Iv8&t=23040s
Listen to John Strand´s presentation here (12 min): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2qCOSL0Iv8&t=23820s
Listen to the 5G panel debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2qCOSL0Iv8&t=25620s