New US Bill To Ban ZTE, Huawei For Government Employees

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A new bill dubbed "the Countering Chinese Attempts at Snooping Act" could soon ban the use of Huawei and ZTE devices by US government employees, The Hill reports. Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley will be introducing the bill. The bill prevents government employees from conducting US business through select technologies. That includes those from companies deemed to be under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The determination about whether or not a company falls into that category would be made by the State Department. That would include companies that "are espionage operations for the CCP." That's according to Senator Cruz. The senator goes on to imply that those companies are "masquerading as telecom companies for the 21st century."

ZTE and Huawei are at the center of the Bill

Now, the bill does appear to single out ZTE and Huawei. And, given the history between the US government and those two Chinese companies, that's hardly surprising. ZTE, for instance, was previously subject to a country-wide ban over dealings that went against US sanctions. That saw it's Android phone production effectively killed until the ban was lifted back in 2018.

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Huawei, meanwhile, has been at the center of a string of controversies over the last several years. Allegations have stretched from government spying — spurred on by Chinese laws requiring company's to work with the government — to corporate espionage. Those ultimately led to a ban on both federal uses of the company's technology and on networking equipment from the company in the US.

The US also placed Huawei on its entity list. As a result, US companies were also forbidden from working with Huawei and the US has pressured its allies to follow suit.

Huawei was once headed toward becoming the world's second-largest smartphone OEM and has denied all claims against it. It has also claimed that it can survive even tougher sanctions from the US. Its business in the industry has continued to grow in spite of sanctions and bans.

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The implications stretch well beyond hardware

The Countering Chinese Attempts at Snooping Act, at the surface, seems reasonable in light of concerns. But this bill does not only single out ZTE and Huawei, or other smartphone and networking OEMs.

That's because it would require the State Department to create a list of CCP-supported companies that could pose a threat. Because of the above-mentioned Chinese law, that list could include effectively any Chinese company at the State Department's discretion.

Another company listed by the senators introducing the legislation is Tencent. According to Senator Hawley, Tencent is a "glorified surveillance arm" working for the CCP and represents a "threat to the US" as well as its allies.

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Tencent is among the world's largest mobile game companies as well as holding top positions in social media, venture capital, and investments. The new bill and statements made alongside its introduction indicate that bans may stretch well beyond hardware and Chinese smartphones. They may also include mobile applications and games, amid a myriad of other connected or associated technologies.