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Pompeo unveils expanded US plan to keep out ‘untrusted’ Chinese tech

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo at Richard Nixon Presidential Library, in Yorba Linda, Calif., on July 23, 2020. (Ron Przysucha/U.S. State Department)
August 06, 2020

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday announced an expanded program to protect U.S. information from being collected by Chinese technologies such as apps and pre-installed software on Chinese products.

The Trump administration had already launched the “Clean Path” program as a way to prevent Chinese data theft, but in a Wednesday announcement, Pompeo unveiled the program’s expansion. Pompeo said the expanded program will protect against “untrusted” Chinese telecommunications companies, mobile apps, smartphone manufacturers, cloud storage, and internet cable providers.

“Today, I am announcing the launch of five new lines of effort to protect America’s critical telecommunications and technology infrastructure,” Pompeo said. “These programs are rooted in internationally accepted digital trust standards and built upon the 5G Clean Path initiative, announced on April 29, 2020, to secure data traveling on 5G networks into U.S. diplomatic facilities overseas and within the United States.”

The original “Clean Path” program, which Pompeo announced on April 29, required 5G network traffic coming in and out of U.S. diplomatic facilities to run end-to-end without any intermediate transmission systems, control computing or storage equipment connected to the network, creating a “clean path” of communication.

The move comes as the U.S. has made efforts to stop Chinese telecoms company Huawei from participating in building the U.S. 5G communications network as well as 5G networks for other U.S. allies such as the U.K.

President Donald Trump has also recently announced a plan to force the Chinese owners of the TikTok social video sharing app to either divest from their ownership and sell its U.S. operations to a U.S. company or see the app banned in the U.S.

The Pompeo’s press release gave the following descriptions for the five new “Clean” programs:

  • Clean Carrier: To ensure untrusted People’s Republic of China (PRC) carriers are not connected with U.S. telecommunications networks. Such companies pose a danger to U.S. national security and should not provide international telecommunications services to and from the United States.
  • Clean Store: To remove untrusted applications from U.S. mobile app stores. PRC apps threaten our privacy, proliferate viruses, and spread propaganda and disinformation. American’s most sensitive personal and business information must be protected on their mobile phones from exploitation and theft for the CCP’s benefit.
  • Clean Apps: To prevent untrusted PRC smartphone manufacturers from pre-installing –or otherwise making available for download – trusted apps on their apps store. Huawei, an arm of the PRC surveillance state, is trading on the innovations and reputations of leading U.S. and foreign companies. These companies should remove their apps from Huawei’s app store to ensure they are not partnering with a human rights abuser.
  • Clean Cloud: To prevent U.S. citizens’ most sensitive personal information and our businesses’ most valuable intellectual property, including COVID-19 vaccine research, from being stored and processed on cloud-based systems accessible to our foreign adversaries through companies such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.
  • Clean Cable: To ensure the undersea cables connecting our country to the global internet are not subverted for intelligence gathering by the PRC at hyper scale. We will also work with foreign partners to ensure that undersea cables around the world aren’t similarly subject to compromise.

As he concluded his statement, Pompeo said some 30 allied countries have committed to “Clean Networks” and many of the world’s leading telecommunications companies are “Clean Telcos” and said all such countries and venders were committed to “using trusted vendors in their “Clean networks.”

“The United States calls on our allies and partners in government and industry around the world to join the growing tide to secure our data from the CCP’s surveillance state and other malign entities,” Pompeo said. “Building a Clean fortress around our citizens’ data will ensure all of our nations’ security.”