US steps up campaign to purge ‘untrusted’ Chinese apps

US China relations

The Trump administration has said it had been stepping up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese programs from US digital networks and called the Chinese-owned short-video program TikTok and messenger program WeChat “significant threats.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said expanded US attempts on a program it calls “Clean Network” would concentrate on five regions and include action to prevent various Chinese apps, as well as Chinese telecoms companies, from accessing sensitive information on American taxpayers and companies.

Pompeo’s announcement comes after US President Donald J Trump threatened to ban TikTok. The hugely popular video-sharing app has come under fire from US lawmakers and the government over national security issues, amid intensified tensions between Washington and Beijing.

In a meeting with state news agency Xinhua on Wednesday, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said the United States “has no right” to install the “Clean Network” and calls that the action by Washington as”a textbook case of bullying”.

TikTok now faces a deadline of the 15th of September to either sell its US surgeries to Microsoft Corp or face an outright ban.

In the run-up to Trump’s November re-election bid, US-China ties are at the lowest ebb in decades. Relations are strained over the global coronavirus pandemic, China’s military buildup in the South China Sea, its growing control over Hong Kong and therapy of Uighur Muslims, as well as Beijing’s massive trade surpluses and rivalry.

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Pompeo said the United States was operating to prevent Chinese telecoms business Huawei out of pre-installing or making available for download the hottest US programs on its own phones.

“We don’t want companies to be complicit in Huawei’s human rights abuses, or the CCP’s surveillance apparatus,” Pompeo stated, without mentioning any special US companies.

Mr Pompeo explained the State Department would work with other government agencies to safeguard the data of US citizens and American intellectual property, such as coronavirus vaccine investigation, by preventing access from cloud-based systems run by companies such as Alibaba, Baidu, China Mobile, China Telecom, and Tencent.

Pompeo stated he was linking Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defence Mark Esper, also Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf in advocating the American telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, to terminate authorisations for China Telecom and other companies to provide services to and from the United States.

He said the State Department was also working to ensure China couldn’t compromise information carried by undersea cables that connect the US into the global internet.

The United States has been lobbying European and other allies to persuade them to cut Huawei in their telecommunications networks. Huawei denies it spies for China and says that the United States needs to ditch its growth because no American businesses offers the same technology at an aggressive cost.

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Pompeo’s comments reflect a far broader and more accelerated push by Washington DC to limit the accessibility of Chinese platform companies to US market and consumers and, as one US official place, to push against a”massive campaign to steal and weaponize our data against us.”

A State Department announcement said momentum for its Clean Network program was growing and more than 30 countries and lands were “Clean Countries” and also many of the planet’s largest telecommunications companies “Clean Telcos.”

It predicted on US allies “to join the growing tide to secure our data from the CCP’s surveillance state and other malign entities.”

Huawei Technologies and Tencent declined to comment. Alibaba, Apple, China Telecom, China Mobile and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

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