TAIPEI, Taiwan—Authorities have announced new guidelines to step up the protection of Taiwan’s critical infrastructure from security risks posed by Chinese technologies and equipment.
Taiwan’s cabinet, the Executive Yuan, unveiled new rules on how government entities should procure tech equipment on April 19, after months of discussions that began in January.
A blacklist will be drawn up of tech companies that make products to be banned from government entities, Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said at a press conference in Taipei on April 19, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA). The list will be compiled and released in three months.
The ban will cover specific equipment used by the government, such as servers, webcams, drones, cloud services, core network hardware, computer software, and anti-virus software.
Agencies in both central and local government, government-owned companies, government-supported foundations and institutions, public schools, and service providers of the island’s critical infrastructure will have to comply with the ban.
Eight sectors fall under the definition of critical infrastructure, including water supply, energy, communications, transportation, finance, high-technology industrial parks, and emergency health care.
The blacklist wouldn’t be limited to products made in China, Kolas explained, since security risks could come from items made in other countries, as well.
Nevertheless, it’s widely understood that the guidelines target Chinese-made products, given that Taiwan has banned government agencies and wireless carriers from using equipment made by Chinese tech giant Huawei since 2013, citing national-security risks.
The Executive Yuan rules also require that agencies, schools, and companies review the tech items and other equipment they use to determine if they are sourced from countries that are deemed a threat to Taiwan’s national security, such as China—and submit their own lists of questionable companies and risky products to the central government.
Taiwan considers China an adversary because Beijing claims the island as part of its territory and has threatened to unite it with the mainland, with military force if necessary. Beijing routinely conducts military drills and other actions near the Taiwan Strait in a show of intimidation.
Companies such as Huawei, its domestic competitor ZTE, Chinese computer maker Lenovo, and Hikvision, a manufacturer of Chinese surveillance products, are likely to be on the final blacklist, CNA reported, citing Taiwanese officials it didn’t identify.
More Chinese companies are likely to be blacklisted. Japanese media Nikkei, citing an unnamed source familiar with the discussion in Taiwan, reported on April 20 that e-commerce giant Alibaba, search engine Baidu, smartphone maker Xiaomi, server supplier Inspur Group, and drone maker DJI are also likely to be on the blacklist.
The guidelines don’t apply to Taiwan’s private sector, according to CNA.
Kolas urged local governments to set aside political party affiliation and work together with the central government to secure the island’s national security.
Her comments are a reflection of the current political climate in Taiwan. The ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), traditionally known for advocating Taiwan’s formal independence, is more likely to support policies that take a hard stance against China. Meanwhile, the Kuomintang (KMT), the current opposition party known for its Beijing-friendly platforms, is more likely to shy away from supporting such policies.
The DPP holds the presidency and the majority of Taiwan’s unicameral legislature. In local elections held in November 2018, the KMT won an overwhelming majority of seats, taking control of more than 15 cities and counties in Taiwan, compared to six under the DPP.
Taiwan’s daily newspaper Liberty Times, in an article published on April 21, pointed out that the new guidelines are an administrative order, meaning that the central government doesn’t have binding power over local governments to follow the procurement regulations.
But Chen Chi-mai, Taiwan’s deputy premier and a member of the DPP, said the Executive Yuan could discipline or punish any officials who fail to comply, based on Taiwan’s Information and Communication Security Management Act, the Liberty Times reported.
The act doesn’t specify the form of punishment or the kind of disciplinary actions for noncompliance.