Senators warn of Chinese technology threats ahead of international meeting

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) speaks to reporters as he arrive for a vote on Monday, July 19, 2021.
Greg Nash

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday warned of continuing threats posed by the Chinese government to telecommunications systems and other critical technologies ahead of a major international summit.

Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to use this week’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ministerial meeting to work with other democratic nations to establish rules of the road around developing technologies, particularly to counter Chinese efforts in this area. Blinken is set to speak at the meeting.

“I urge you to use the OECD’s upcoming ministerial meeting on October 5-6, 2021 to work to establish rules and norms around strategic technology issues, including development and governance strategies and best practices for communications applications, AI-enabled products and services, next-generation networks, Internet of Things devices, blockchain and fintech products, and renewable energies,” Warner wrote to Blinken.

“These technologies and their associated standards and norms are being developed now across various markets and international standards-setting organizations, with immediate repercussions for the economic competitiveness and national security of democratic nations,” he added.

Warner criticized the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) use of telecommunications company Huawei and its promotion of the firm as a “national champion” in the 5G technology and standards space.

Huawei came under massive scrutiny during the Trump administration, with Commerce Department officials effectively blacklisting the company and the Federal Communications Commission designating it a national security threat due to its ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Huawei has repeatedly denied that it poses a threat to U.S. security.

“Many countries have woken up to the risks of having a PRC-linked entity serve as the telecommunications infrastructure for their citizens and the risks of PRC access to the security and integrity of their citizens’ data and communications,” Warner wrote. “These risks extend to other next-generation technologies that rely on, and transmit, sensitive data and communications.”

The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) did not sign on to the letter, but wrote an op-ed in RealClearPolitics published Monday arguing that the steps taken against Huawei should be replicated in taking a stand against Chinese malign efforts.

“Thankfully, we are now coming to grips with the consequences of overreliance on communist China,” Rubio wrote. “Huawei’s fall is simply the first step in a decades-long effort to correct our lopsided relationship with China and secure a new American century for our great people.”

The concerns were raised as the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to resume an effort to raise awareness among key U.S. private sector groups of the risks posed by China. 

The Record reported on Monday that members of the committee would resume what was described as a “roadshow” that involved 13 sessions in 2018 and 2019 that involved members of the U.S. intelligence community briefing private sector groups on Chinese threats.

“We need to take this message back on the road,” Warner told The Record.

Tags Antony Blinken China Chinese telecommunications Huawei Marco Rubio Mark Warner

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