The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted unanimously to revoke the Chinese operator’s licence to do business in the US, citing concerns over national security
When Joe Biden first took over the US Presidency from Donald Trump, some Chinese onlookers were hopeful that the new administration would act more favourably towards the activities of Chinese enterprise in the US.
The reality, however, has been much starker, with Biden largely continuing with his predecessor’s tough stance on China.
Today, in the latest of a long line of blows related to national security, the FCC has voted to ban China Unicom from operating commercially in the US.
The FCC said that China Unicom is owned and controlled by the Chinese government and therefore their activities in the US carry a risk to the security of the country’s national communication infrastructure.
China Unicom has responded to this ban by arguing that the decision has been taken “without any justifiable grounds and without affording the required due process”, noting that it has operated in the US for 20 years and has always followed FCC regulations.
The FCC, however, says that the “national security landscape” has shifted in the last two decades and that concerns over national security have been increasing.
“There has been mounting evidence – and with it, a growing concern – that Chinese state-owned carriers pose a real threat to the security of our telecommunications networks,” explained FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel.
China Telecom was notably similarly barred back in October last year, having failed to win an appeal, while China Mobile’s bid to provide telecommunications services in the US was also rejected back in 2019.
Following the ruling, China Unicom will have 60 days to cease its activities within the US. The company currently offers various connectivity, cloud, IoT, video conferencing and unified communications services to enterprise customers, as well as consumer mobile services as a virtual mobile operator. Most of these activities will have cease, though the company’s data centre services will still be available to US consumers.
National security concerns have been at the heart of much of the US–China conflict in recent months, with President Biden signing the Secure Equipment Act into law last year, banning a number of companies, including ZTE and Huawei, from providing telecoms equipment in the US. Now, Rosenworcel and the FCC have written to the Commerce Department, the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and other agencies, seeking to have this list updated.
In related news, last year, after an initial back and forth, China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom were all delisted from the New York Stock Exchange following an executive order from President Donald Trump. Since then, China Telecom and China Mobile have both sought listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), hoping to raise $7.3 billion and $8.8 billion, respectively. China Unicom is already listed on the SSE.