Senators Introduce Legislation to Address the China Tech Threat

Yesterday, Senators Rubio and Markey introduced the Secure Equipment Act of 2021. According to the press release, the bill is “to direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify that it will no longer review, or approve, applications from companies on the Commission’s “Covered List.” It would also halt any further sales or implementation of technology from Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hikvision, and Dahua – all Chinese Communist Party (CCP) state-backed or directed firms – in the U.S. regardless of whether federal funds are involved.

Here at China Tech Threat, we applaud this bipartisan effort to secure our national security and help protect the privacy, security and prosperity of all Americans. While this bill takes important steps, it is by no means an end. Beyond Huawei and ZTE, there are still significant Chinese information technology vendors that have been banned from US military and intelligence networks, yet continue to have contracts with state and local governments. Most notable of these are Lenovo and Lexmark, two major corporations that have contracts totaling over $50 million with more than 26 states across the country and can access sensitive personal and financial information held by courts, police departments, elections departments, education departments, children and family services, and other social service providers and agencies. We must do more to stop these sales and integration of this dangerous technology, not only on a federal level but across states as well, as Roslyn Layton noted in a recent Forbes piece.

Sen. Rubio and Sen. Markey both have an acute understanding of the threat that these technologies pose, as is evident from this impressive bill. “The Chinese Communist Party subsidizes these companies and exploits loopholes in our laws to allow malicious actors to sell compromised equipment and services in the U.S. ” Senator Rubio said in the press release. In a teleconference about the CCP’s technology infiltration, with Dr. Layton last year, Sen. Rubio noted “the one area that China has been keen to exploit is at the state level because state governments largely are not aware of the threat it poises to them — to have within the backbone of their government system technology that has security vulnerabilities that are deliberate and can be exploited. We have never faced that sort of vulnerability before in the backbone of our country. It is something that we need to create more awareness about and that’s why reports like these are so valuable.”

“In today’s increasingly connected world, we must animate our technology with our values, especially in the 5G networks that are critical to our future economic prosperity,” Markey said. “That’s why our bipartisan legislation will make sure all of our devices and equipment are safe for consumers and secure for the United States.”

In support from the FCC, Commissioner Carr noted that “Their legislation would strengthen our national security by ensuring that we close the loophole that Huawei and others are using right now despite our determination that their gear poses an unacceptable risk to our national security.” With the FCC playing a large role on how this legislation will play out, and its critical impact, support from Carr is welcomed and laudable.

We look forward to seeing how the Secure Equipment Act of 2021 moves through the legislative process and hope there is wider and more expansive discussion and legislation to root out all risky CCP owned technology.