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Biden FCC affirms Trump designation of China’s Huawei as national security threat

A Huawei location in Santa Clara, Calif., on April 19, 2018. (Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA/TNS)
March 15, 2021

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated five Chinese technology firms, including Huawei, as national security threats to the U.S., affirming President Donald Trump’s administration’s earlier designation in June 2020.

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a list of communications equipment and services companies “that have been deemed a threat to national security,” which prohibits federal funds from paying for their products and services. Chinese firms Huawei Technologies Co., ZTE Corp., Hytera Communications Corp., Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co., and Dahua Technology Co, comprised the whole FCC list.

The FCC’s designation represents a continuation of security concerns about Huawei and other Chinese technology firms raised during Trump’s administration. The FCC previously designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats under Trump in June 2020, but the new FCC list reaffirms that designation for Huawei and ZTE and expands the list.

“This list is a big step toward restoring trust in our communications networks,” acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said. “Americans are relying on our networks more than ever to work, go to school, or access healthcare, and we need to trust that these communications are safe and secure. This list provides meaningful guidance that will ensure that as next-generation networks are built across the country, they do not repeat the mistakes of the past or use equipment or services that will pose a threat to U.S. national security or the security and safety of Americans.”

The FCC stated the designation was made in accordance with the Secure Networks Act, signed into law in March 2020. Under the law, federal funds are prohibited from subsidizing or purchasing equipment or services deemed to pose national security risks. Funds are also set aside to help pay for the replacement of equipment originally sourced from those firms deemed to pose a national security risk.

The Department of Justice and U.S. intelligence agencies have shared concerns that Chinese technology firms could compromise U.S. and western nations, accessing sensitive information to steal intellectual property and uncovery nation security weaknesses.

Huawei has reportedly built in technological backdoors into its communications networks, potentially allowing them to access sensitive and personal information stored on those networks. The company reportedly lent access of those technological backdoors to African governments to spy on their political opponents.

Under Trump, the U.S. made several efforts to block Huawei from participating in U.S. 5G communications networks and the U.S. State Department introduced the Clean Network, aimed at getting companies and nations to commit to using trusted communications technologies and services.