State Department Highlights Chinese Technology Threats

Over the spring and summer, the Commerce Department and Pentagon issued warnings about threats from Chinese technology manufacturers and telecommunications firms.  On the anniversary of 9/11, the State Department also raised red flags about how Huawei and other Chinese enterprises threaten privacy and threaten U.S. national security.

Dr. Christopher Ashley Ford, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, gave a speech at the Multilateral Action on Sensitive Technologies (MAST) Conference, in which he explained that “countries that choose Huawei technology are opening the door to Chinese access to their domestic networks and local companies, as well as potential surveillance by Chinese officials, posing a potential threat to their national security and economic well-being.”

Echoing a point CTT has driven home for months, Dr. Ford underscored how all Chinese firms, whether “public” or “private,” ultimately answer to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP):

“Irrespective of their ostensibly private, commercial status, all such firms are subject to a deep and pervasive system of Chinese Communist Party control.  This control is not limited merely to the possible establishment of Chinese Communist Party cells within a company’s workforce and management structure … but also includes a formidable arsenal of state- and Party-manipulable pressures and incentives.  There is also a deep bench of expansively-worded Chinese laws that require cooperation with state officials in virtually all matters, a heavy-handed security apparatus in no way shy about using such coercive tools, and a Party-run judicial system that precludes effective legal recourse to anyone with whom the Chinese Communist Party disagrees.”

Dr. Ashley also made the key point that the threat extends well beyond Huawei, as he cited Tencent, Alibaba, Xiaomi, Lenovo as examples of other companies that help service weapons and equipment for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and help prop up China’s electronics, aerospace, shipbuilding sectors.

Dr. Ford’s conclusion should be heeded by administration officials, members of Congress and western governments:  “[I]t seems to some of us to be nothing less than madness to allow Huawei to worm its way into one’s next-generation telecommunications networks – just as it seems nothing less than madness to allow other Chinese technology giants to vacuum up and expatriate personal and consumer data and to control electronic commerce in free sovereign nations.”