Do 5G networks and smartphone apps developed by Chinese companies threaten national security?
Relations between the U.S. and China have never been straightforward, especially in recent years, as the two countries have been engaged in geopolitical rivalry and a trade war.
But a new battleground has emerged in tech, as America has sought to ban Chinese technology and even apps for young people like Tik Tok, citing possible security breaches, and it looks like the UK and India are also withdrawing from using Chinese tech amid geopolitical concerns.
To discuss the complexity of tech and international relations with Dr. Eric Harwit, Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii, Dr. David R. Hanke, Partner at Arent Fox LLP and Dr. Mark Shanahan, Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Reading in the UK.
Let's start with State Secretary Mike Pompeo's remarks from just a few hours ago, announcing the U.S. will impose visa restrictions on Chinese technology firms including Huawei, citing their support for the Chinese communist party which carries out surveillance on their people as well as human rights abuses against minorities. The U.S. has also hit out against Chinese apps like WeChat and TikTok.
Dr. Harwitt, what do you make of this series of actions against Chinese tech?
Dr. Hanke, what's your view on this? Do we have a legitimate reason to be suspicious of Chinese technology? Especially with the U.S. presidential election coming up in November?
This comes after the UK announced it won't be adopting Huawei's 5G technology, and it will require mobile networks to remove all of the Chinese giant's technology by 2027. Dr. Shanahan, this is the completely opposite position that the Johnson government had even a few months ago even amid security concerns. What caused the drastic change of heart?
Dr. Shanahan: Do you think the UK is making the right decision? What is the risk of having China's 5G network installed across Britain?
Dr. Harwit, what's your view on this? Do you think Britain is making the best choice and how do you think Beijing will react?
Dr. Hanke: Chinese lawmakers have drafted a data security law that may require companies to disclose details about network security in their operations outside China. What does this mean for tech companies and their users?
Dr. Shanahan: TikTok has been used as a popular app among the younger generation but the platform has now raised serious national security concerns in the U.S. as it's owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance. The demographic that tends to use TikTok is rather young and they’re based in Western democracies. Does this worry you?
Dr. Harwit: Should we be particularly cautious of Chinese-owned technology firms compared to other apps, devices or networks?
Dr. Hanke: Can we trust Chinese firms when they say their data is stored outside of China, and they can't be forced by Beijing to do anything?
Dr. Shanahan: There has also been security concerns over drones, smartphones and other Chinese technologies. Do we have good reason to believe that Chinese-owned technology firms pose particular risks to security compared to other apps, devices or networks?
Dr. Harwit: As U.S.-China relations continue to sour, and their tech war intensifies, what kind of actions do you see coming from each side?
Dr. Hanke: As rivalry intensifies between the U.S. and China, the competition has spilled over to technology in areas such as 5G and artificial intelligence. Why is it crucial to win this competition and who do think is leading in the race at the moment?
We'll have to wrap up the discussion here, I'm afraid but it's been great to hear your insights on this.
Dr. Eric Harwit, at the University of Hawaii, Mr David R. Hanke at Arent Fox LLP and Dr. Mark Shanahan, at the University of Reading. Thank you so much for joining us.