This development aims to provide a systemic protection to U.S. infrastructure and businesses that may have been so far vulnerable to sniffing by adversaries. Pregnant with geo-economic and geo-political implications the move underscores a growing awareness within the U.S. establishment that their open ended systems need to be protected from aggressive foreign designs.
In a development that has widespread economic ramifications for the U.S. industry, two Republican Senators have introduced a bill that aims to block employees of the U.S. government from leasing or buying telecommunications equipment from ZTE Corp or Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, citing concerns that the Chinese telecommunications equipment makers would use their devices to spy on U.S. officials.
“Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices,” said Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. “There are plenty of other companies that can meet our technology needs, and we shouldn’t make it any easier for China to spy on us”.
This is not the first time these allegations have been leveled at these Chinese firms. In 2012, both companies were subject to a U.S. investigation to determine whether their equipment provided an opportunity for foreign espionage and threatened critical U.S. infrastructure.
Both Chinese firms have consistently denied the allegations.
The bill, which Cotton introduced together with Florida Senator Marco Rubio, is similar to one introduced in January by two Republican lawmakers in the House, Representatives Michael Conaway and Liz Cheney.
This development comes in the wake of the the U.S. government forcing AT&T Inc to scrap a deal which offered Huawei handsets to its customers. With members of the U.S. Congress lobbying against that idea with federal regulators.
Furthermore, the U.S. government wary of Chinese designs of acquiring U.S. tech companies, has blocked a string of Chinese acquisitions citing national security concerns, including Ant Financial’s proposed purchase of U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International.
As per an aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, U.S. lawmakers have also advised U.S. companies that unless they cut their ties to Huawei or China Mobile, a telecom operator, their ability to do business with the U.S. government will get hampered.