The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it had begun the process of cancelling the operating licenses of two Chinese telcos. The move is likely part of Washington’s continuing efforts to root out any potential for Chinese espionage in the US.
According to the report by Reuters, the telcos named were China Unicom Americas as well as Pacific Networks and its subsidiary ComNet which collectively are owned by CITIC Group Corporation. At the moment, China Unicom Americas and Pacific Networks have a two-decade old authorisation to operate in the US.
The FCC accused the firms of failing “at this stage to dispel serious concerns” about their US authorisations. FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks observed that many Chinese telcos also owned data centres in the US, but said that the agency currently lacked authority to “address this potential national security threat.”
Last Friday, the FCC, using a 2019 law, designated five Chinese companies as national security threats: Huawei Technologies, ZTE, Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Dahua Technology. In addition to that, Facebook last week has also dropped an application to build a new Internet cable between the US and Hong Kong based on “ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communications links.”
Taken all together and depending on your point of view, Washington is either deep in a fit of paranoia or acting prudently and rapidly to secure its networks. Regardless, there is a massive irony here.
Beijing is notorious for severely restricting the activities and reach of Western companies on the Chinese mainland – a decades-long complaint of the West. Washington, the champion of free markets and democracy, may end up doing the same thing to Chinese firms.