The United States is planning a far broader offensive against Chinese tech companies than previously thought. In recent weeks there has been a lot of talk about TikTok, and the possibility that it will be banned from the US (in the last few days there have been further developments, with Microsoft expressing interest in buying it), but it could only be the tip of the iceberg.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has outlined a five-point program to "secure American user data" – the fear is, as usual, that the Beijing government will use the data collected by Chinese technology companies for political purposes. The main points are as follows:
- Make sure that the "untrusted" Chinese Communist Party network operators are not connected to American networks.
- Remove "untrusted" Chinese applications from US app stores.
- Prevent "untrusted" Chinese smartphone manufacturers from pre-installing or making the most popular American apps available for download on their devices.
- Prevent the personal data of American citizens or the intellectual property of American companies from being stored in Chinese cloud storage services.
- Make sure that the submarine cables connecting the USA to the global internet have not been compromised by China for gathering information.
Pompeo did not explain in detail how he intends to implement this program, with what timing and with what authority; but it is clear that if this happens the consequences could be drastic for the smartphone market. A plausible scenario is that all Chinese manufacturers find themselves essentially in the same situation as Huawei – unable to provide essential apps like the Play Store and Google services, for example.
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