WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump moved Wednesday to ban US telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security, White House officials said, stepping up a battle against China by effectively barring sales by Huawei, the country’s leading networking company.
Trump issued an executive order instructing the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, to ban transactions “posing an unacceptable risk” but did not single out any nation or company.
Led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US officials have warned allies for months that the United States will stop sharing intelligence if they use Huawei and other Chinese technology to build the core of their fifth-generation, or 5G, networks. The networks promise not only faster cellular service, but also the connection of billions of “internet of things” devices — such as autonomous cars, security cameras and industrial equipment — to a new internet architecture.
Pentagon and US intelligence officials have warned that Chinese firms will be able to control the networks and have expressed concerns not only that secure messages could be intercepted or secretly diverted to China but also that Chinese authorities could order Huawei to shut down the networks during any conflict, disrupting US infrastructure.
Huawei has denied those charges, and its chief executive has said he would shut down the company rather than obey Chinese government orders to intercept or divert internet traffic. US officials say he would have no choice: Chinese law requires that the country’s firms obey instructions from the nation’s Ministry of State Security.
The executive order came amid an escalating trade war between the United States and China, with the two sides imposing hundreds of billions of dollars of tariffs in recent days. Trump has accused the Chinese government of unfair trade practices and announced increased tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods last week.
But few issues have gained as much bipartisan support in Washington as the Trump administration’s warnings of the security threats posed by Huawei and ZTE, another company with deep links to the Chinese government.
The major mobile phone companies have renounced the use of Huawei equipment in their 5G systems, but the order will ensure that smaller, rural telecom companies avoid Huawei when they build new networks.
2019 New York Times News Service