This week marks an important moment between the US and China as leaders of both nations will meet and talk about all things trade, politics and climate. Tech will be high on the agenda.
Tensions eased slightly after Meng Wanzhou, chief executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei, was allowed to return home from Canada after a deal with US prosecutors. But a tech war continues to smoulder, with Huawei, drone maker DJI, top chipmaker SMIC, and surveillance firm Hikvision still on a US national security blacklist, aimed at making it harder for US firms to share key technology.
US President Joe Biden last week signed legislation to prevent companies like Huawei Technologies Co or ZTE Corp, deemed security threats, from receiving new equipment licences from US regulators. The Secure Equipment Act, the latest effort by the US government to crack down on Chinese telecom and tech companies, was approved unanimously by the US Senate on October 28 and earlier in the month by the US House on a 420-4 vote.
The signing came days before Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping were expected to hold a virtual summit. Reuters reported the meeting is expected Monday, amid tensions over trade, human rights and military activities.
The new law requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to no longer review or approve any authorisation application for equipment that poses an unacceptable risk to national security.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the commission had approved more than 3 000 applications from Huawei since 2018. The law "will help to ensure that insecure gear from companies like Huawei and ZTE can no longer be inserted into America’s communications networks," Carr said.
In March, the FCC designated five Chinese companies as posing a threat to national security under a 2019 law aimed at protecting US communications networks.
The named companies included previously designated Huawei and ZTE, as well as Hytera Communications Corp, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.
The FCC in June voted unanimously to advance a plan to ban approvals for equipment in US telecommunications networks from those Chinese companies even as lawmakers pursued legislation to mandate it.
The FCC vote in June drew opposition from Beijing.
“The US, without any evidence, still abuses national security and state power to suppress Chinese companies,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson at China’s foreign ministry, said in June.
Under proposed rules that won initial approval in June, the FCC could also revoke prior equipment authorisations issued to Chinese companies.
Huawei in June called the proposed FCC revision “misguided and unnecessarily punitive”.
Last month, the FCC voted to revoke the authorisation for China Telecom's US subsidiary to operate in the US, citing national security concerns.
Biden has neither revoked nor enforced a Trump executive order directing Chinese gaming company Bytedance to divest.