Sunday, 26 May 2019 07:33

New China cyber security law could be used to block US firms Featured

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New China cyber security law could be used to block US firms Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

China has unveiled new cyber security regulations calling for "secure and controllable" technology in its networks, raising the possibility that it could be used to block American technology companies on national security grounds.

A report in the South China Morning Post said the draft document, Cyber Security Review Measures, had been published by the country's Cyber Space Administration on Friday and would be up for comment until 24 June.

It asks operators of the country's information infrastructure to evaluate the risk to national security when they buy products and services from foreign companies.

The issuing of the new draft law comes after the US imposed a ban on Chinese telecommunications equipment provider Huawei Technologies and 68 of its affiliates on 16 May, preventing the company from importing components from American companies without government approval. Some of the affiliates are in countries like Canada, Japan, Brazil, the UK, Singapore and others.

The same day, US President Donald Trump also put in place a ban on the use of equipment from Huawei and its fellow Chinese firm, ZTE, within the US but that would not have much effect on either firm as the US uses very little equipment from either company.

On 20 May, Google announced it was cutting off Huawei's access to future updates of Google's Android and Google Play Store.

The next day, the US Commerce Department eased some of the restrictions, allowing Huawei to maintain and update existing networks and handsets.

Huawei deputy chairman Ken Hu referred to the US ban during a speech to a conference in Germany on cyber security.

Speaking in Potsdam, Hu said, "When I arrived earlier, I was told that we are at a historic site where the Berlin Wall once stood. This reminded me of the fact that we don’t want to see another wall and we don’t want to go through another painful experience.

"Equally, we don’t want to build a new wall in terms of trade, we don’t want to build a new wall in terms of technology either.

"We need an integrated global ecosystem which can help us to promote faster technological innovation and stronger economic growth. Ultimately, it is what we have to rely on in order to maintain prosperity for human society."

The draft regulation was not specific, giving Chinese officials latitude to interpret it any way they wished.

Nick Marro, an analyst with The Economist Intelligence Unit based in Hong Kong, told the SCMP: "The regulatory opacity means that officials have quite a lot of flexibility in how they want to implement this – meaning it could be applied to US firms in a way that embodies ‘qualitative measures’ as part of China’s trade war response."

When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang was asked, at a regular press briefing in Bejing on Friday, whether China was willing to discuss Huawei's position as part of trade negotiations, he responded:

"Recently we have stated China's position on the Huawei issue repeatedly. We urge the US to correct its wrong act of using state power to bring down foreign businesses, seeking illegitimate interests, disrupting the market and undermining international cooperation.

"Regarding the China-US trade talks you mentioned, China has already made clear its position on many occasions. China believes that differences in the trade and economic fields between the two countries should be resolved through friendly dialogue and consultation.

"But all dialogue and consultation must be based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. It takes such principle to make a dialogue possible, hopeful and meaningful."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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