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Biden pauses Trump order blocking Communist Chinese infiltration of US power grid

Joe Biden. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
January 25, 2021

On President Joe Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order that, among other things, suspended for 90 days a Trump-era order that blocked Chinese involvement in the U.S. power grid.

On Wednesday, Biden signed the “Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” Along with affecting a range of new executive policies on the environment, Biden’s executive order put a 90-day pause on an order signed by President Donald Trump, which the Trump administration used to block Chinese involvement in the U.S. power grid.

Trump’s Order 13920 signed May 1, 2020, stated, “Foreign adversaries are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in the United States bulk-power system, which provides the electricity that supports our national defense, vital emergency services, critical infrastructure, economy, and way of life.  The bulk-power system is a target of those seeking to commit malicious acts against the United States and its people, including malicious cyber activities, because a successful attack on our bulk-power system would present significant risks to our economy, human health and safety, and would render the United States less capable of acting in defense of itself and its allies.”

Trump’s order prohibited “any acquisition, importation, transfer, or installation of any bulk-power system electric equipment (transaction) by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, where the transaction involves any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest (including through an interest in a contract for the provision of the equipment).”

In December, the U.S. Department of Energy invoked the Trump-era order to stop utility companies that supply power to supply critical defense facilities (CDF) from procuring electrical equipment from the People’s Republic of China controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Announcing the decision on Dec. 17, the Energy Department said then-Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette issued the order to “reduce the risks that entities associated with the People’s Republic of China pose to the Nation’s bulk-power system (BPS).”

Biden’s new order says Trump’s order 13920 “is hereby suspended for 90 days” and “the Secretary of Energy and the Director of [Office of Management and Budget] shall jointly consider whether to recommend that a replacement order be issued.”

It’s unclear if Biden will reinstate the Trump-era order, replace it with a similar order, or revoke it entirely after the 90-day suspension.

China has suggested potential warming of relations with the U.S. under Biden’s leadership. Tensions between the U.S. and China rose throughout the Trump presidency, but in recent weeks, Chinese officials described the Biden presidency as providing a “new window of hope” for China’s relations with the U.S.