The plan of the Trump administration to create a ‘clean Internet’ by removing Chinese-owned technology continues to cause shockwaves in China.

On Wednesday this week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged all American companies to remove ‘untrusted’ Chinese-owned technology from their digital networks.

The highly ambitious plan by the Trump administration is part of its efforts to restrict the reach of Chinese tech in the United States, and comes as the US readies a ban on TikTik, unless it is sold to Microsoft.

Chinese tech purge

US officials have already tightened rules to prevent China from obtaining advanced US technology for commercial purposes, and then diverting it to military use.

Companies such as Huawei Technologies have already been severely limited from trading in the United States, and the US government continues to pressure its allies to remove its technology from their networks.

And now speaking on Wednesday, Pompeo outlined plans to expand the administration’s push for a so-called “clean network.”

According to CNN, he listed five areas of critical importance that the government will seek to prohibit Chinese companies from accessing: app stores, apps, cloud services, mobile carrier networks and undersea internet cables.

“We want to see untrusted Chinese apps removed from US app stores,” Pompeo told reporters. “With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat and others are significant threats to personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for [Chinese Communist Party] content censorship.”

He made it clear that that the Trump administration also wants to restrict smartphone companies such as “Huawei and other untrusted vendors” from pre-installing or making available for download popular US apps.

But it is clear that the US plans are not just targetting smartphones and apps. Under the broad proposals, Chinese cloud service providers could also be restricted.

Clean network

“We’re protecting Americans’ most sensitive personal information and our businesses’ most valuable intellectual property – including Covid vaccine research – from being accessed on cloud-based systems” run by Chinese companies such as Alibaba, Tencent and others,” said Pompeo.

According to CNN, Chinese firms Alibaba and Tencent both have data centres in Virginia and Silicon Valley.

The Trump administration is also looking to prevent Huawei and other Chinese tech companies from building carrier networks or undersea data cables that connect the United States to the rest of the world.

“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 [Chinese Communist Party’s] surveillance state and other malign entities,” said Pompeo.

“Building a [clean] fortress around our citizens’ data will ensure all of our nations’ security,” he added, noting that more than 30 countries and territories support the US strategy.

However Pompeo did not provide further detail as to how the sweeping restrictions would be implemented.4

Chinese reaction

It is should be noted that Beijing has for years placed hefty restrictions on the ability of foreign tech companies to operate in China – and its so-called Great Firewall has for years shut out content widely available elsewhere on the internet.

But on Thursday the Chinese government reiterated that it is “firmly opposed” to Pompeo’s use of national security as an excuse to “oppress” Chinese technology companies.

“Pompeo and other American politicians use state security as an excuse and use state power to oppress Chinese high tech companies, we are firmly opposed to this,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin was quoted as saying by CNN.

“Their actions have no factual basis, it’s just smearing and political manipulation aimed to maintain the US monopoly in high-tech.”

Madness

And the Chinese state-controlled media also jumped on the bandwagon, saying Washington’s plan to ban certain technologies of Chinese origin is a sign of “madness”.

“Pompeo has uttered anti-China remarks almost every day, and constantly played tricks to intensify conflicts between China and the US, and display Trump administration’s toughness toward China,” China’s state-backed tabloid Global Times was quoted by Reuters as writing in an editorial on Thursday.

“From the long-term perspective, it’s incredible that the US information industry could totally detach from the Chinese market,” the Global Times wrote.

“It would pose a severe test for US companies if US chips, software, and terminal equipment become irrelevant to the Chinese market,” it added.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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