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Trump lays out 'Clean Network' agenda against China

The US Secretary of State this week codified a new federal movement against Chinese vendors operating in the country. Dubbing it the "Clean Network" initiative, Mike Pompeo said the effort will include removing Chinese apps from US smartphone app stores and stopping Chinese cloud computing providers from accessing data on Americans.

"Freedom-loving nations must come together to confront the CCP's [Chinese Communist Party (CCP)] aggressive behavior," Pompeo said in a speech this week. "And the good news is the tide is absolutely turning. The central idea of distrust and then verify, I think the world is coming to see as the right approach to responding to these challenges."

Most of Pompeo's "Clean Network" agenda items are already in at least some stage of progress. For example, reports indicate Microsoft is in talks to acquire the US division of China's TikTok social networking service ahead of a US ban on the app.

Nonetheless, the "Clean Network" announcement by Pompeo – an appointee of President Trump – offers a more unified look at what has so far appeared to be a scattershot approach. Here are the five elements of the initiative:

  • Clean Carrier involves ensuring "untrusted Chinese telecom companies don't provide international telecommunications services between the United States and foreign destinations," Pompeo explained. Already the FCC has taken action against China Telecom for its facilities in the US.
  • Clean Store would include the removal of "untrusted Chinese apps" from US app stores like those from Apple and Google. "With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat, and others are significant threats to the personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for CCP content censorship," Pompeo said.
  • Clean Apps would prevent Huawei and other vendors from "pre-installing or making available for download the most popular US apps" due to the possibility of spying, he said.
  • Clean Cloud would prevent companies like Alibaba, Baidu, China Mobile, China Telecom and Tencent from accessing data like Americans' personal information or COVID-19 vaccine research.
  • And Clean Cable would prevent Chinese companies from accessing information carried by undersea cables. Already the US government has made official moves against such efforts.

"We call on all freedom-loving nations and companies to join the Clean Network," Pompeo said.

Such efforts build on top of the Trump administration's efforts to ban Chinese vendors like Huawei from the US and international network equipment markets.

Huawei and other Chinese vendors have argued against such efforts by the US government as unnecessary overreach.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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