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Rubio, Warner Ask Intelligence Community for Public Report on Chinese Role In Setting 5G Standards
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, urged Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to issue a comprehensive and unclassified report on China’s participation in the international standard setting bodies (ISSBs) for fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technologies (5G). This report will expose any Chinese efforts to skew international standards for 5G toward Chinese-controlled telecommunications companies and will allow companies in the U.S. to fully assess threats to fair competition and push back against them.
Rubio and Warner are the lead sponsors of bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China. Rubio has long expressed concerns about the risks to our national security posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. On October 12, 2018, Rubio and Warner sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging his country to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance. Rubio and Warner are also the authors of bipartisan legislation to enforce full compliance by ZTE with all probationary conditions of a U.S. Commerce Department’s deal struck with the company last year that ended U.S. imposed sanctions.
Full text of the letter is below.
Dear Director Coats:
We are writing to request an unclassified report on the participation of China and other adversarial nations in the international standard setting bodies (“ISSBs”) for fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technologies (“5G”). Over the past year, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (“SSCI”) has heard anecdotal concerns that China is attempting to exert pressure or political influence in the ISSBs, which have historically functioned as technological meritocracies. Not only does political influence undermine fair competition, it also raises serious economic and security concerns for 5G and future generations of wireless technologies.
Currently, U.S. companies do not have access to critical information about the nature of this threat, and the degree of state-directed coordination amongst large Chinese telecommunication firms seeking to gain a critical edge in wireless technologies. Without adequate information, U.S. companies cannot effectively push back against this behavior, nor can the United States coordinate with our allies to deter anticompetitive practices in the ISSBs.
Specifically, we request a detailed and unclassified report, to the extent possible, from the Intelligence Community (“IC”) on the following items:
- Overall trends in the ISSBs over the past decade and the implications of politicization of ISSBs, if there is evidence of such trends;
- Specific examples and case studies of attempts by China and other foreign adversaries to exert pressure or political influence within the ISSBs or at major telecommunication conferences to secure standards that are favorable to Chinese companies and patent holders, or that might introduce deficiencies into 5G networks; and,
- Implications of Chinese-led standards for 5G technologies and how that will affect U.S. economic and security interests, including efforts by U.S. companies to sell and scale its technologies, the ability of the U.S. to position itself for future generations of wireless technology, and to protect against cyber intrusions and security vulnerabilities.
In 2012, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on Huawei and ZTE drew attention globally to the security concerns associated with certain Chinese telecommunication and information technology companies. Similarly, we believe Chinese influence in our ISSBs is not fully appreciated, and the IC can play an essential role in filling the publicly available information gap—a necessary first step to countering this trend.
We hope that this report will be part of an ongoing effort to share more timely and relevant information with U.S. companies and our allies. The U.S. cannot tackle this issue alone and must work closely with our international partners—including the European Union, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada—on how we may collectively strengthen security standards, supply chain management, and market share of critical technologies. To the greatest extent possible, we urge the IC to declassify relevant information.
We appreciate your attention to this important matter.