Back from his foreign junket, Biden issues an order letting the government subpoena or ban Chinese app makers, while the FCC closes Huawei loopholes.

Pádraig Belton, Contributor, Light Reading

June 18, 2021

4 Min Read
Biden back in DC, but China still on his mind

Back to Washington from his first foreign jaunt as president, Biden still has China on his mind.

There were some domestic tasks to tend to, too.

Like signing into law a national holiday for June 19, commemorating the first day, in Texas in 1865, when actual slaves were freed in keeping with the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.

Figure 1: Sober reflection: Their methods might be poles apart - but when it comes to China, President Biden appears to share the same fears as his predecessor. (Source: White House) Sober reflection: Their methods might be poles apart – but when it comes to China, President Biden appears to share the same fears as his predecessor.
(Source: White House)

But mainly it was China on the Oval Office desk.

One executive order says Chinese apps could face subpoenas or bans if they do not take tougher measures to protect private information.

The order gives the Commerce Department the power to issue subpoenas to collect evidence about how smartphone, tablet and desktop software protect users' sensitive data.

This order replaces a May 2019 Trump one, but it may have more teeth: possibly capturing more apps and holding up better in court.

Keeping with a new multilateral outlook reinforced by the president's recent trips to Britain and Brussels, the Biden administration hopes other European and G-7 states will implement similar measures, says Reuters.

Biden's order identifies apps that are controlled, owned or managed by a person or entity supporting military or intelligence activities of a foreign adversary.

WeChat and TikTok are the most likely to find themselves in the crosshairs first, along with Tencent, Ant Group and Alibaba mobile payment apps.

As Biden returns to a balmy Washington summer, finding his climate change proposals bogged down in a divided Congress, China increasingly looks like the one thing that can bind America together.

Oh say can you FCC

Across the National Mall at the FCC, commissioners voted unanimously to move ahead with a ban on using equipment from Huawei and other Chinese providers in US communications networks.

The FCC "left open opportunities" for Huawei and other Chinese equipment use in the United States "through our equipment authorization process."

"So here we propose to close that door," says Jessica Rosenworcel, the commission's acting chairwoman.

The US regulator has approved more than 3,000 applications from Huawei for its equipment to be used in the country's communications networks since 2018, says Brendan Carr, the FCC's senior Republican commissioner.

These authorizations now stand to be revoked.

The FCC is expected to vote next month on rules for how carriers who currently use Huawei or ZTE equipment can apply for federal reimbursement to "rip and replace" it, as the regulator required in December.

Congress appropriated $1.9 billion that month to pay for the "rip and replace" program, after rural networks protested they did not have the money.

A public comment period will now take place before the four commissions hold their final vote on the proposals.

When the chips are down...

Meanwhile in Shenzhen, Huawei is electing to skip the annual update of its flagship Mate smartphone for the first time since 2013.

It is yet another sign of its withdrawal from the smartphone scene under US pressure.

Taiwan's TSMC had been making the Kirin chipsets designed by Huawei's HiSilicon design unit.

The company could not find any manufacturer capable and willing to make the chips, said Huawei's rotating chairman Eric Xu Zhijun.

Want to know more about security? Check out our dedicated security channel here on Light Reading.

Huawei instead is shifting tack to providing replacement parts for existing users of its smartphones.

The company also will be turning its mind to launching its HarmonyOS operating system as part of its refocus on software.

As part of this new software push, yesterday in Shenzhen, Huawei's Bob Cai showed off the company's augmented-reality algorithm wares.

Claiming this market would be worth $300 billion by 2025, Cai told listeners about Huawei's AR engine, a development platform orientated toward mobile devices, and Air Photo, which converts 2D photos into 3D models.

The Mandarin character for crisis isn't actually the same as for opportunity – that unfortunately is a Western urban legend – but don't tell Huawei.

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Pádraig Belton, contributing editor special to Light Reading

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Pádraig Belton

Contributor, Light Reading

Contributor, Light Reading

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