Senior U.S. officials and experts say the United States needs to rally allies to pressure China stealing advanced technology through cyber espionage. At the same time, key American lawmakers are questioning the readiness and capacity of the U.S. to counter such threats.
The renewed push comes after U.S. federal prosecutors pressed criminal charges against the world’s largest telecommunications company — China’s Huawei Technologies — its chief financial officer and several subsidiaries for alleged financial fraud and theft of U.S. intellectual property.
Huawei denies the charges. Beijing denies its government and military engage in cyber-espionage, saying the U.S. allegations are fabricated.
“The Huawei incident seems like an action against an individual corporation, but it is actually bigger than this,” said Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based scholar. “This is about one state’s technology war against another state, about which one will occupy the technology high ground in the future.”
The Trump administration, however, said Washington is deeply concerned about the potential of Beijing using Chinese technology firms to spy on the U.S. and its allies.
“China’s pursuit of intellectual property, sensitive research and development plans, and the U.S. person data remains a significant threat to the United States government and the private sector,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Tuesday.
Other officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-proliferation Christopher Ford, advocate for a global coalition against Chinese technology-transfer threats.
At another hearing, experts said threats that Huawei poses to supply chains and critical infrastructure are “absolutely real.”
“We need defensive measures and we need to invest in our own technologies as well, and we need to be cooperating with allies and partners,” said Ely Ratner, who was deputy national security advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden.
“We know that the Huawei leadership has members of the Communist Party within it, and the company has a long and deep relationship with both PLA and the Ministry of State Security in China. And of course is subject to Chinese law and their new National Intelligence law which gives the government the right to use the networks and data as they wish,” added Ratner at a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Elbridge Colby warned that China may gain “economic, informational, and blackmail” leverage over other countries through data collected by companies such as Huawei.
“This dissolves or corrodes the resolve in these countries potentially to stand up to Chinese potential coercion,” Colby told senators.
“We need to be able to form a network that is sufficient and cohesive to stand up to these Chinese threats,” he added.
Bipartisan senators have been pushing for the creation of a White House office to fight China’s state-sponsored technology theft and defend critical supply chains.
“China and other nations are currently attempting to achieve technological and economic superiority over the United States through the aggressive use of state-directed or state-supported technology transfers,” said Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who introduced a bill to fight China’s technology threats earlier this month.
“A national response to combat these threats and ensure our national security has, to date, been hampered by insufficient coordination at the federal level,” added Warner and Rubio in a statement.
Under the bill, the Office of Critical Technologies & Security would coordinate with federal and state regulators, the private sector, experts and U.S. allies to ensure that every available tool is being utilized to safeguard the supply chain and protect emerging dual-use technologies.
The case has provoked strong reactions in China.
Lew Mon-hung, a Hong Kong-based businessman and analyst, says China should fight back in U.S. courts.
Mon-hung, a former member of the Chinese Political Consultative Conference (China’s political advisory legislative body), says that China should trust the U.S.’s rule of law and resort to legal measures to clear Huawei’s name.
“When the US government filed these charges, China’s government, Huawei, or the Chinese public, should use legal means to solve legal problems,” he said. “Since Huawei has abundant financial resources, and since the Chinese government has the largest foreign currency reserve in the world, why don’t they just hire the best American lawyers? They can build a strong team of lawyers against this case and fight a legal battle.” (VOA)
U.S.-backed forces are starting to search through the remnants of the Islamic State’s final enclave in northeastern Syria, looking for fighters, mines and booby-trapped explosives.
The effort Wednesday to sift through the broken buildings and shredded tents that litter the landscape in the town of Baghuz comes a day after Syrian Democratic Forces took the area from IS fighters in what officials described as a significant blow to the terror group.
SDF officials said as many as 1,500 more people surrendered following Tuesday’s incursion into IS’s final stronghold, including hundreds of injured IS fighters.
But concerns run high that fighters lurk in trenches dug all around the former IS enclave, as well as in a complex network of caves and tunnels, which some officials said could run for more than two kilometers.
An unknown number of IS fighters have also retreated to a sliver of land along the Euphrates River, and there are no estimates for how many fighters could be hiding in other parts of Baghuz.
“A group of Daesh in Baghuz still fight back and hold their families as human shields,” Zana Amedi, a media official with the YPG militia, which has been supporting the SDF offensive, told VOA Wednesday, using the terror group’s Arabic acronym.
Despite the official caution, small celebrations broke out Wednesday around Baghuz, with some groups of SDF fighters playing music and dancing.
“We have won. We have eliminated the enemy, the terrorists,” Majid Hejjo, an SDF fighter, told the French news agency.
“The comrades are tired, and the battle is over,” said another SDF fighter.
No ‘complete victory’ yet
In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump was equally effusive, telling reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that the very last speck of IS-held territory would be liberated within hours.
“There is no red,” Trump said just hours after an intelligence briefing, showing off a map that compared IS-held territory now and the day he was elected. “In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot, which will be gone by tonight.”
Still, SDF officials and U.S. defense officials have been wary of saying the fight against the terror group’s self-declared caliphate is over.
It has been three months since Trump first announced the defeat of IS in a tweet,and more than a month since he told a meeting of ministers from coalition countries that the end of the caliphate “should be formally announced, probably sometime next week.”
More recently, multiple SDF officials have also forecast the fall of IS within days or even hours, only to see efforts slowed by fierce fighting and the presence of tens of thousands of civilians, mostly the wives, children and family members of IS fighters.
They now say more than 5,000 people have fled Baghuz since SDF resumed its final assault on IS just over a week ago, despite earlier saying only about 1,000 civilians and 300 fighters were holed up in Baghuz shortly after the operation to liberate the town got under way last month.
In all, SDF says more than 5,000 IS fighters have surrendered or been captured over the past month, while another 1,300 have been killed in the fighting.
The U.S.-led coalition also said Wednesday there has been no letup in efforts to ensure the terror group is defeated.
“The ground offensive, coalition airstrikes and artillery continue as needed,” coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan told VOA. “The SDF feel they are in control of the area, but as long as Daesh puts up any type of fight and hides in tunnels, they cannot declare complete victory.”
‘Tens of thousands’ of fighters
SDF officials have raised the possibility that the remaining IS fighters may also be holding prisoners and hostages, but there has been no word as to their fate in recent days.
Thousands of SDF troops have massed around Baghuz for weeks, laying siege to the town in an effort to liberate the final IS enclave in Syria. Officials said Kurdish special forces from Iraq also had been brought in to help with the operations.
Even once an official announcement is made, U.S. defense officials caution IS still has “tens of thousands” of fighters working either as part of sleeper cells or as part of an active, clandestine insurgency.
Additionally, senior officials believe most of the group’s senior leadership, including its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remain at large. (VOA)