China is seeking to construct its own uncrackable smartphones in an attempt to evade U.S. surveillance programs, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The effort is part of the Asian power’s efforts to develop homegrown technology to replace foreign products.
In response, Beijing and leading Chinese tech firms are working together to build a secure smartphone for government officials that relies on a domestically built operating system and processor chip, according to the Journal.
The efforts include smartphone maker ZTE, chip-design company Spreadtrum Communications and e-commerce giant Alibaba, which last year had its initial public offering on the U.S. stock market.
The goal is to build a phone for government agencies and state-owned enterprises that keeps out foreign cyber spies.
China has stepped up its work on protecting data from American intelligence agencies since government leaker Edward Snowden revealed a number of clandestine U.S. surveillance programs.
Technology experts and U.S. lawmakers have accused Beijing of striking back with its own digital espionage campaign targeting U.S. government agencies and private businesses.
In particular, Chinese hackers are suspected in the devastating hacks this summer at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which exposed the personal information of more than 20 million people involved in federal background checks. It’s thought to be the most extensive government data breach of all time.
But China has also worried that its reliance on American technology leaves it vulnerable to hackers.
The country lags in the development of microchips and has been making aggressive moves in recent months to catch up.
In July, state-owned Chinese chipmaker Tsinghua Unigroup reportedly made a $23 billion bid to purchase U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology.
The purchase would have been the largest ever Chinese purchase of a U.S. firm. But the deal never came to fruition, stymied in part by concerns over U.S. government approval.
China is also suspected of trying to catch up by digitally pilfering the corporate secrets of American businesses.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent state visit to Washington, the U.S. and China struck an agreement to eliminate corporate hacking, though many remain skeptical that China will adhere to the deal.