The United States on Wednesday announced it wants to remove more Chinese smartphone applications from U.S. app stores and stop Chinese cloud providers from serving U.S. companies.
The announcement is part of a renewed effort to drive out Chinese technology from its market and products.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented plans showing the U.S. wants to expand the campaign it has led against telecom giant Huawei and social media app TikTok, aimed at pushing back on China’s involvement in the global technology industry.
“We want to see untrusted Chinese apps removed from U.S. app stores,” Pompeo told reporters, adding “apps like TikTok, WeChat and others are significant threats to the personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for [the Chinese Communist Party] content censorship.”
He said the U.S. wants to prevent smartphone maker Huawei from pre-installing popular U.S. apps too.
Further, the U.S. government wants to stop U.S. citizens’ data and companies’ intellectual property from running on “cloud-based systems run by companies such as Alibaba, Baidu, China Mobile, China Telecom and Tencent,” Pompeo said.
It’s unclear on what legal basis the U.S. can stop Chinese providers from offering their services in the U.S. and other countries, and what measures Washington can take to do so.
But the plans show a clear rupture with long-standing policies that the internet should be global, open and interoperable, experts pointed out.
“This is the U.S. essentially saying they’re going to bifurcate the internet,” said Paul Triolo, head of geo-technology at the political intelligence firm Eurasia Group.
“It’s forcing companies to take sides, to choose a ‘blue’ supply chain or a ‘red’ supply chain,” he said, calling it “a huge shot across the bow of the global internet.”
The challenge of U.S. diplomats will be to get like-minded countries on board with its new plans.
For Europe, in particular, the initiative goes against its long-standing position that governments should “safeguard access and openness, to respect and protect fundamental rights online and to maintain the reliability and interoperability of the internet,” outlined in the EU’s 2013 Cybersecurity Strategy and other positions.
The U.S. and European governments have had similar positions at the United Nations in the past, criticizing Beijing lawmakers for their censorship of the internet and heavy-handed government control over the software used inside China.
Pompeo is scheduled to visit the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria and Poland next week.
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