Multiple State Department officials warned of the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the emerging 5G network race, noting that the United States is working on a “broader strategy to provide trusted alternatives” to Chinese telecommunication companies.
The warnings, made during a July 9 virtual discussion titled “5G: The Future of Digital Connectivity and Commerce,” comes as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally designated Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE as national security threats.
“Security is most certainly compromised,” one State Department official said, referring to technologies from Chinese-owned companies.
The recent FCC designation bars U.S. rural carrier customers from tapping into an $8.5 billion government fund to purchase equipment from the two companies. Huawei denies that it enables Chinese spying or is controlled by the CCP.
The same official said the United States is holding discussions warning of the dangers of using the technology, “particularly in countries which have just begun to understand the very serious nature of cyber threats.”
When doing business with reliable vendors, both government and private sector entities need to have a degree of certainty about the safety of their information, the official said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, is expected to start phasing out Huawei’s technology in Britain’s 5G network as soon as this year, according to a recent report from The Daily Telegraph.
It’s also essential for the United States to find the right ways “to encourage and promote American innovation in 5G, while also safeguarding against those who will use it as a force against us,” the official noted, adding that the administration has deployed a comprehensive approach.
The United States is working on a specific region on this front. In 2019, the government launched a digital connectivity and cybersecurity partnership to support cyberinfrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region, the official said.
“We’ve made it clear that [China’s] ‘One Belt, One Road’ is not the only alternative for countries there,” the official said, adding that the administration has provided “over $50 million of U.S. government money towards this effort.”
The CCP, through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has injected billions of dollars into low-income countries in order to build Chinese infrastructure projects. Since 2013, the initiative has launched more than 2,900 projects worth a total of $3.87 trillion. The BRI has been called a “debt trap” because of Beijing’s predatory lending practices, which leave these countries vulnerable to China’s aggressive influence campaigns.
The national security implications of the 5G race with China are significant, another State Department official said, adding that whoever leads the world in this technology will have a distinct economic and national security advantage over other countries.
The official accused China of using “predatory economic practices” that have enabled Beijing to capture 40 percent of the market share in the United States in these technology sectors. In 2017, the U.S. government for the first time began “to confront head-on the risks posed by China’s distorted economic practices,” according to the official.
A third official emphasized the need for engaging with the private sector, noting that this engagement is essential for the United States to continue its innovation lead. The virtual discussion was hosted by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council, from the Department of State.
Days ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked if the United States should ban Chinese-owned app TikTok over concerns the CCP could access U.S. citizens’ data.
“We’re certainly looking at it,” Pompeo told Fox News on July 6. “We’ve worked on this very issue for a long time, whether it was the problems of having Huawei technology in your infrastructure.
“We’ve gone all over the world, and we’re making real progress getting that out,” he said. “We declared ZTE a danger to American national security. We’ve done all of these things.”