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Joe Biden Signs Law To Tighten US Curbs on Huawei, ZTE

The Secure Equipment Act is the latest move by the US to block the use of Chinese telecom gear, which is deemed a security risk. The bill was approved by almost all US lawmakers.

Joe Biden
Lawmakers in the US have voted by a large margin not to use Chinese telecom gear, saying it is a security risk. Photo: Reuters.


US President Joe Biden on Thursday signed legislation to prevent companies like Huawei Technologies or ZTE Corp that are 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 with a 420-4 vote.

The signing comes days before Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are expected to hold a virtual summit. Reuters has said the meeting is expected to happen on 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 authorization application for equipment that poses an unacceptable risk to national security.


Insecure Gear

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the commission has 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 telecom networks from those Chinese companies even as lawmakers pursued legislation to mandate it.


China Objects

The FCC vote in June drew opposition from Beijing.

“The United States, 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 authorizations issued to Chinese companies.

Huawei in June called the proposed FCC revision “misguided and unnecessarily punitive.”

Last month, the FCC voted to revoke the authorization for China Telecom’s U.S. subsidiary to operate in the United States, citing national security concerns.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Kevin Hamlin




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Kevin Hamlin

Kevin Hamlin is a financial journalist with more than 40 years of experience covering Asia. Before joining Asia Financial, Kevin worked for Bloomberg News, spending 12 years as Senior China Economy Reporter in Beijing. Prior to that, he was Asia Bureau Chief of Institutional Investor for ten years.


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