U.S. further limits Huawei and ZTE

Man looking at phone while passing by Huawei store (© Mark Schiefelbein/AP Images)
The U.S. government has taken numerous steps to protect against China's untrustworthy telecom firms like Huawei, seen here in Beijing. (© Mark Schiefelbein/AP Images)

The United States designated two Chinese telecommunications firms as “national security threats” June 30.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designations cut Huawei and ZTE off from billions of dollars in U.S. subsidies due to their close association with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure,” he added.

Laws in China requiring Chinese telecom vendors to support the CCP’s intelligence services mean that the CCP could use Huawei and ZTE equipment to spy on or sabotage telecom networks around the world.

Within the U.S., the CCP seeks to use the companies’ equipment to surveil U.S. citizens and conduct large-scale industrial sabotage, said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.

“We cannot treat Huawei and ZTE as anything less than a threat to our collective security,” Carr said in a June 30 statement. “Nothing short of prohibiting subsidized Huawei and ZTE gear from our networks could address this serious national security threat.”

The designations ensure that federal subsidies for expanding wireless communication service across America cannot be used to purchase or support equipment from Huawei or ZTE.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo has long warned of the risks of using fifth-generation wireless equipment from China’s technology companies. In addition, international consensus is growing that the security risks of using China’s technology are unacceptable.

Security concerns recently drove the government of Greece and major Canadian wireless communication providers to take steps toward eliminating reliance on Chinese telecommunication companies, including Huawei and ZTE. And numerous other countries, including the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and Estonia, have chosen trusted vendors over Huawei.

The U.S. government has taken multiple steps to protect Americans from untrustworthy Chinese telecom companies.

In May 2019, the FCC unanimously voted to deny China Mobile’s application to provide telecom services between the U.S. and foreign destinations.

The Commerce Department added Huawei and its affiliates to its Entity List in May 2019, citing a reasonable basis to conclude Huawei is engaged in activities contrary to U.S. national security. The listing precludes Huawei from buying American-made components without U.S. government permission.

In March 2020, President Trump signed a law that precludes use of federal funds to purchase telecom equipment from Huawei and other untrustworthy Chinese firms.