Washington Orders Chinese Telephone Operators Out of US Market

The US communications watchdog expelled a unit of China Telecom Ltd., one of China’s three major carriers, from the American market on national security grounds amid rising tensions with Beijing.

China Telecom (Americas) Corp. required to stop providing interstate and international domestic services in the US within 60 days, under an order approved Tuesday by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC said Beijing may use the company to conduct wiretaps, interfere with US communications and engage in espionage and other malicious activities against the US.

The Biden administration is expanding efforts begun under President Donald Trump to restrict Chinese state-owned companies’ access to US technology and markets over concerns over security risks or aiding China’s military development.

China Telecom was one of the companies that was removed from the US stock exchange under Trump’s order that barred Americans from investing there.

The FCC said in 2019 that due to security concerns it planned to revoke licenses granted two decades earlier to China Telecom and another Beijing-owned operator, China Unicom Ltd. The FCC also rejected a license application by a third operator, China Mobile Ltd.

“The ownership and control of China Telecom Americas by the Chinese government raises significant national security and law enforcement risks,” the FCC announcement said.

“The company’s behavior and communications to US government agencies demonstrate a lack of openness and lack of trustworthiness,” the FCC said, without providing details.

The Chinese government has said it will take steps to protect its companies but has not announced retaliation for their status in the US market.

The telecommunications companies are blacklisted by US government entities because the Pentagon considers them involved in China’s military development. Other Chinese companies on the list are engaged in petroleum, chip processors, video technology, construction, aerospace, rocketry, shipbuilding and nuclear power equipment. [ab/uh]

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