author photo
By Bruce Sussman
Fri | Apr 10, 2020 | 9:31 AM PDT

Last year it was Huawei the U.S. government went after. 

Now, it's China Telecom.

Federal agencies want to ban Chinese telecom company

In a joint statement, the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State, and Commerce asked the FCC to revoke the right of China Telecom to operate in the United States.

The company provides international telecommunication services to and from the United States. The government says China Telecom is the U.S. subsidiary of a People's Republic of China (PRC) state-owned telecommunications company.

"Today, more than ever, the life of the nation and its people runs on our telecommunications networks," said John 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 executive branch agencies identified what they call substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks associated with China Telecom's operations. The company was most recently approved to operate in the U.S. back in 2007.

The agencies cited the following specific concerns:

  • 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

Podcasts: Can we trust Chinese companies doing business in the U.S.?

The larger question here is related to flag of origin. Can we trust Chinese companies with parts and pieces of our critical technology infrastructure? Can we trust Chinese companies when it comes to the build out of 5G?

The U.S. effectively banned Chinese tech giant Huawei in 2019 by adding the company and a number of related companies to what is called the "entity list." 

Here are two related podcasts that shed light on this topic and offer unusual insights.

Interview with Huawei USA's Chief Security Officer Andy Purdy. Can you trust Huawei?

And what could China possibly want from the U.S. and companies around the West? Listen to our nation-state cyber threats episode:

After listening to these episodes, you may have unexpected thoughts on this topic.