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By Jason Abbruzzese

President Donald Trump on Wednesday declared a national emergency over foreign threats to U.S. communications infrastructure and services, a move that comes amid growing tensions with China and some of its major technology and telecommunications companies.

The executive order pointed to “the threat posed by the unrestricted acquisition or use” of information technology made or supplied by people under control of “foreign adversaries.” No specific countries or companies were mentioned in the order.

The acquisition of U.S. companies by foreign countries, particularly China, in recent years has been the subject of renewed scrutiny over concerns that sensitive information, such as personal and potentially embarrassing personal details, could be taken and used in espionage efforts. Most recently, the Chinese gaming company Kunlun said it had agreed to a request by the U.S. government to sell the popular gay dating app Grindr.

There has also been scrutiny of the use of foreign technology for important U.S. communications infrastructure, such as cell towers from Huawei, the Chinese technology giant that has become the target of U.S. legal action. The company’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, is currently being held in Canada on U.S. charges of violating sanctions on Iran.

Under the order, the federal government will be able to block foreign technology companies from doing business in the U.S., setting the groundwork for a unilateral ban on Huawei’s U.S. business interests. The U.S. government has already banned Huawei phones from military bases as well as the use of some Huawei telecommunications equipment.

The U.S. is not alone in its efforts to stem the growth of Chinese tech companies, particularly Huawei, which is the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications equipment. Numerous countries including Australia and Japan have banned Huawei from having any part in the building of next-generation wireless networks known as 5G. Scrutiny of Huawei in the U.S. has also had bipartisan support, with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., calling Huawei equipment “extraordinarily dangerous.”

But those bans also put countries at risk in falling behind the global race to build new 5G networks, which are seen by experts as the key to a variety of futuristic technologies including self-driving cars. The U.S. is generally considered to be lagging China in the development of 5G technology, though some experts disagree.

Trump has previously called for greater investment in 5G technology.

“American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind,” Trump tweeted in February.



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