US launches probe into Chinese telcos over data concerns 


The investigation is the latest move in the US and China’s ongoing struggle for global tech dominance 

The US government is investigating Chinese telcos China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom due to concerns that the firms could provide US data to the Chinese government via their US cloud and wholesale routing services.  

According to Reuters, citing three sources familiar with the matter, the US Commerce Department has subpoenaed the three companies and has completed “risk-based analyses” of China Mobile and China Telecom, but has made less progress in the probe of China Unicom. 

China Mobile, China, Unicom, and China Telecom are China’s three national mobile operators, all of which are state owned, and combined serve roughly 1.7 billion customers across the country. Beyond their domestic operations, the operators have a significant international presence, offering a wide variety of telecoms and IT services.  

In the US, however, the companies’ presence is relatively limited, having all been banned from providing telephony and broadband services by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) due to national security concerns since 2019. The companies’ wholesale cloud services – a small part of their overall operations –  have yet to be directly impacted by sanctions. 

Now, the US government is potentially looking to extend its sanctions to cover the wholesale cloud operations, arguing that these could route US data through China where it would be more accessible to the Chinese government.   

The current probe extends to internet exchange points (PoPs) and cloud services, critical infrastructures where data interception or manipulation could occur. 

The Chinese embassy has responded to the claims, asking the US to “stop suppressing Chinese companies under false pretexts,” emphasising that China will continue to defend the rights and interests of Chinese companies. 

The investigation is part of a broader strategy by the government to mitigate security risks posed by Chinese tech firms. The issue feeds into the ongoing wider battle between the two geopolitical rivals over global tech dominance. This rivalry includes various sectors such as telecommunications, semiconductors, AI, and 5G. The US government is particularly concerned about the implications of Chinese advancements in technology on national security, intellectual property, and economic competitiveness. 

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