Date
20 February 2018
US Senators Mark Warner (left) and Richard Burr at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
US Senators Mark Warner (left) and Richard Burr at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Concerns raised over Chinese access to US technologies

China is trying to gain access to sensitive US technologies and intellectual properties through telecommunications companies, academia and joint business ventures, Reuters reports, citing statements by US senators and spy chiefs at a Senate hearing.

Republican Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he worried about the spread in the United States of what he called “counterintelligence and information security risks that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors”.

“The focus of my concern today is China, and specifically Chinese telecoms [companies] like Huawei [Technologies Co. Ltd.] and ZTE Corp., that are widely understood to have extraordinary ties to the Chinese government,” Burr said.

Chinese firms have come under greater scrutiny in the United States in recent years over fears they may be conduits for spying, something they have consistently denied.

Burr said he worried that foreign commercial investment and acquisitions might jeopardize sensitive technologies and that US academic research and laboratories may be at risk of infiltration by China’s spies.

Several of the US spy agency chiefs who testified at the committee’s annual worldwide threats hearing cited concerns raised by what they called China’s “all of society” approach toward gaining access to technology and intellectual property.

“The reality is that the Chinese have turned more and more to more creative avenues using non-traditional collectors,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in response to a question about student spies.

Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s Democratic vice chairman, said he worried about the commercialization of surveillance technologies as well as the close relationship between the Chinese government and companies.

“Some of these Chinese tech companies may not even have to acquire an American company before they become pervasive in our markets,” Warner said.

Wray said the US needed a more “strategic perspective on China’s efforts to use acquisitions and other types of business ventures”.

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RC/CG

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