Top Democrat calls for new strategy to address China threats

Top Democrat calls for new strategy to address China threats
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats Hillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware MORE (D-Va.) on Monday called for a "comprehensive strategy" in dealing with China, saying the Trump administration should be less "erratic and incoherent" in its approach to Chinese threats in cyberspace and other areas.

“The president’s insistence on framing this as a conflict between our two countries has resulted in little tangible gain,” Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “We cannot afford to frame this strategic challenge in simplistic, Cold War terms — dividing the world in two and fighting for a bigger half.”

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Warner argued that the administration needs to step up and “defend against China’s bad behavior.”

“We need a comprehensive strategy to defend against China’s bad behavior, to compete with China in the 21st century and to strengthen the international order it seeks to upend,” he added.

Warner said confronting Chinese efforts to dominate fields such as telecommunications, science and technology and the military was the “great foreign policy challenge of our time.”

Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property has been a focal point of Trump's year-plus trade war with China. The issue also found its way into the Democratic presidential primary, with candidates raising their concerns during the debate in Houston earlier this month.

Warner on Monday advocated for the need to strengthen and secure U.S. military equipment supply chains and telecommunications supply chains against Chinese cyberattacks. He also highlighted the need to create “clear consequences” for American businesses that work with China and ignore threats to “global norms and rules.”

He cited the potential threats posed by products from Chinese telecom groups Huawei and ZTE, particularly as 5G networks are rolled out worldwide.

The Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration issued an interim rule in August banning federal agencies from purchasing equipment from those companies, citing national security concerns.

The Commerce Department added Huawei to its “entity list” earlier this year. U.S. firms are banned from doing business with companies on the list.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE, however, cast uncertainty on that designation when he announced at the Group of 20 summit in June that he would allow U.S. companies to sell products to Huawei in cases where there are no national security concerns.

Warner criticized Trump’s suggestion that Huawei could be used as a “bargaining chip” in U.S.-China trade negotiations, which are set to resume next month.

“Our efforts to convince allies to adopt alternatives to Huawei have been constantly undermined, particularly when the president keeps hinting that restrictions on Huawei could be a bargaining chip in the context of a wider trade deal,” Warner said.

The Virginia Democrat has been one of the most active senators when it comes to addressing cyberthreats from China and Russia.

He has sponsored several bills designed to cut down on Chinese threats, including a bill with Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoThe job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Lawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid MORE (R-Idaho) that would assist in protecting the supply chain for critical technologies. He sponsored another bill with Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements MORE (R-Fla.) that would establish an Office of Critical Technologies and Security at the White House to protect against state-sponsored intellectual property theft.

Warner said Monday that he intends to introduce legislation to address the use of shell companies by the Chinese government and other malicious actors to invest in the U.S.