Tech products and services destined for use in Chinese “national security and public interests” will now have to be vetted, according to state news agency Xinhua, which reported a statement by the Chinese internet information office on Thursday.
The move is not explicitly aimed at U.S. vendors, as both domestic and foreign products and services will be tested and no names have been named. That said, the implication is clear – Xinhua quoted government spokesman Jiang Jun as saying:
“For a long time, governments and enterprises of a few countries have gathered sensitive information on a large scale, taking the advantage of their monopoly in the market and technological edge. They not only seriously undermine interests of their clients but also threaten cyber security of other countries.”
Vetting will be required for products and services that will be used in “communications, finance, energy and other key industries,” the report noted, while also pointing out that the U.S. Congress had assessed Chinese vendors back in 2012. That would be a reference to the report in which Congress blacklisted telecoms equipment from Huawei and ZTE (the U.K., by comparison, allows Huawei equipment but only after vetting).
This all comes as part of rapidly worsening diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China over the issues of cybersecurity and surveillance. Just to quickly run through recent events:
- On Monday, the U.S. suddenly ratcheted up what had been a long-simmering argument over cybersecurity by indicting 5 Chinese army officials over the alleged hacking of U.S. businesses for economic gain.
- China immediately responded by suspending a Sino-U.S. working cybersecurity group and accusing the U.S. of major hacking operations. It had the Snowden documents to back up its case.
- On Tuesday China announced a ban on Windows 8 on Chinese government computers. The central government procurement office mentioned security at the time, but a subsequent Reuters report on Thursday quoted state organ the People’s Daily as saying Windows 8 exposed users to NSA surveillance.
You can see why the likes of Cisco CEO John Chambers are begging President Barack Obama to rein in the NSA’s activities. China was one of the first countries to start backing away from U.S. vendors in the wake of the Snowden revelations, and the new vetting regime and Windows 8 ban suggest this is a trend that will continue.