Congress should take action to confront challenge from China
The United States faces economic and national security risks which, no matter who is in the Oval Office, demand a bipartisan approach. While it was buried amidst the venom and vicious debates for the 2020 election, the issue of China was one area where lawmakers could reach across the aisle and show us that there is shared ground in our country.
Our competition against China is perhaps the most significant challenge since the Cold War with the Soviet Union. This is one that will define our economic and national security agenda and will touch all Americans. This will also shape our future and those of our children and grandchildren. A competition does not mean confrontation and conflict, but it does mean that we need to marshal our resources and continue working together to ensure we define our economic and national security actions.
The most visible element of this competition is about Chinese companies like Huawei that enjoy the support of the Communist Party and the race to deploy 5G equipment in China and all around the world. The Communist Party uses every element of national power, including subsidies, favorable loans, economic espionage, and intellectual property theft, to ensure that Chinese companies dominate the market for this technology.
This is by no means a small challenge. The economic potential of 5G is huge. One study finds that 5G could generate more than $13 trillion in international economic value and add more than 22 million jobs. It will shape our entire future in ways we have yet to fully conceive. From the internet of things, to remote broadband, to telemedicine and more, 5G will be leaps and bounds faster than the current connection.
That is only the economic impact. The Communist Party wants to own the pipelines across which all of our personal health and financial data flow. Beijing wants to have total data dominance. This is now a major security threat. So if China owns the pipelines, it owns the data, and if it owns the data, it can shape the future to meet its authoritarian ends.
Both Republicans and Democrats concur over the challenge we face and the fact that we must act today. The White House, State Department, and others embarked on a campaign to educate our allies and partners on why this is a global security issue. Such effort has an effect as more countries limit or outright ban Huawei and others from their networks.
The State Department also announced a series of financial aid packages to assist developing countries to deploy networks that are not owned by Beijing. Chinese companies often offer major discounts and zero interest loans to get countries to buy their favored products. This undercuts the products offered by liberal democracies like the United States.
The federal government is now restricting access for Huawei and others to sensitive networks and stopping them from tapping money that lets them enter our market. While these are great steps, much more must be done. We must remove the Huawei equipment that is in our networks installed before the threat of the Communist Party. The Federal Communications Commission found that this could cost almost $2 billion. That cannot be borne by the carriers alone which provide critical broadband in some of the most remote and underserved parts around the country.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working to ensure this equipment is removed and carriers are supported. The Ensuring Network Security Act would support the “rip and replace” of such equipment. This is the kind of leadership we need and action we must take to ensure that we define our economic and national security future. So to confront the challenge that China represents, it is critical that we reach across the aisle. We have to make smart investments, fuel economic growth, and build the strongest foundation of our future. We cannot do that if we are divided.
Mike Rogers is a former member of Congress who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He is now the David Abshire Chair at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress and is a senior fellow with the Intelligence Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Follow him @RepMikeRogers.