US China trade conflict

US bans Huawei and ZTE equipment sales

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Biden administration has banned imports of telecommunications equipment made by Chinese companies, citing an "unacceptable risk" to national security.

The United States has banned approvals of new telecommunications equipment from China's Huawei Technologies and ZTE, among other Chinese companies, due to national security concerns. 

The rules were adopted by the US Federal Communications Commission unanimously and will also bar the sale or import of equipment made by Chinese surveillance equipment maker Dahua Technology Co, video surveillance firm Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co Ltd and telecoms firm Hytera Communications Corp Ltd.

The news is the latest development of a long-running technological dispute between Washington and Beijing, as US firms demand more government support to reduce reliance on components produced in Chinese factories.

“These new rules are an important part of our ongoing actions to protect the American people from national security threats involving telecommunications,” said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

"The FCC is committed to protecting our national security by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorised for use within our borders, and we are continuing that work here," she added. 

The FCC's order applies to future authorisations of equipment, though the agency has left open the possibility of revoking previous authorisations.

The rules would mean that no new Huawei or ZTE equipment can be approved for import. In contrast, certain Dahua, Hikvision, or Hytera gear can be approved, if the companies can "assure the FCC that their gear won't be used for public safety, security of government facilities, and other national security purposes."

"Our unanimous decision represents the first time in FCC history that we have voted to prohibit the authorisation of new equipment based on national security concerns," tweeted Brendan Carr, a Republican FCC commissioner.

Hikvision issued a statement saying that its products don't threaten US security, adding that it will continue to serve US customers "in full compliance" with the country's regulations.

"This decision by the FCC will do nothing to protect US national security, but will do a great deal to make it more harmful and more expensive for US small businesses, local authorities, school districts, and individual consumers to protect themselves, their homes, businesses and property," Hikvision said, 

The US has restricted trade with China since at least 2019 when the Trump administration banned Huawei from buying vital US technology. In August, the US also prohibited the export of four technologies tied to semiconductor manufacturing, declaring that they were “vital to national security” and signed a “historic” bill aimed at boosting the domestic production of semiconductors. 

Shortly after the bill's passing, US chipmaker Nvidia revealed it had been told by the US Department of Commerce to halt exports of some of its artificial intelligence (AI) technology to China, due to a potential risk of the products being used by, or diverted to, a “military end-user”.

Other countries have also followed the US lead in restricting China's access to their technological markets. Last week, UK government departments were ordered to stop installing surveillance cameras made by firms subject to China’s national security law.

The UK government has also recently blocked the sale of British chip manufacturer Newport Water Fab to a Chinese-owned company on national security grounds.

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