Multiple federal executive branch agencies announced on Thursday that they have unanimously recommended to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it “revoke and terminate” a Chinese state-owned telecom service provider’s ability to operate in the United States.
The six federal agencies that made the recommendation against China Telecom Corp. were led by the Department of Justice and included the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State, Commerce, and the United States Trade Representative.
“The Department of Justice led the review of China Telecom’s authorizations, and it based the recommendation on developments since the authorizations were last transferred in 2007, including China Telecom’s failure to comply with the terms of an existing agreement with the Department,” the DOJ said in a statement. “In its recommendation, the Executive Branch agencies identified substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks associated with China Telecom’s operations, which render the FCC authorizations inconsistent with the public interest.”
The DOJ highlighted the following five bullet points on why the executive branches made the recommendation:
- The evolving national security environment since 2007 and increased knowledge of the PRC’s role in malicious cyber activity targeting the United States;
- Concerns that China Telecom is vulnerable to exploitation, influence, and control by the PRC government;
- Inaccurate statements by China Telecom to U.S. government authorities about where China Telecom stored its U.S. records, raising questions about who has access to those records;
- Inaccurate public representations by China Telecom concerning its cybersecurity practices, which raise questions about China Telecom’s compliance with federal and state cybersecurity and privacy laws; and
- The nature of China Telecom’s U.S. operations, which provide opportunities for PRC state-actors to engage in malicious cyber activity enabling economic espionage and disruption and misrouting of U.S. communications.
“Today, more than ever, the life of the nation and its people runs on our telecommunications networks,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “The security of our government and professional communications, as well as of our most private data, depends on our use of trusted partners from nations that share our values and our aspirations for humanity. Today’s action is but our next step in ensuring the integrity of America’s telecommunications systems.”
The move comes as American’s views towards China have rapidly soured in response to the coronavirus pandemic which originated in China and has devastated the world. China has been accused of lying about the outbreak, trying to cover it up, and not reporting truthful figures about the extent of the epidemic inside its borders.
The Washington Post reported that “a new poll shows that, outside the Beltway, the coronavirus crisis is actually bringing Americans together on the China issue. Republicans and Democrats now largely agree that the Chinese government bears responsibility for the spread of the pandemic, that it can’t be trusted on this or any other issue, and that the U.S. government should maintain a tough position on China on trade and overall, especially if Beijing again falters in its commitments.”
Japan announced this week that it would spend billions of dollars to help its firms move their production out of China and back to Japan or to other countries.