The US-China trade war is only getting more and more complicated every day, and telecom and tech companies seem to be the bargaining chip.
A big jolt was delivered to Huawei, earlier this year with its blacklisting in the US and cancellation of its Android license. Now, senators, both Democrats and Republicans want a review of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license of Chinese telecoms.
Senators Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York) and Tom Cotton (Republican-Arkansas) have written to FCC to review licenses of China Telecom and China Unicom, which allow the companies to use networks in the US.
The senators stated in the letter which was also sent to the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense,"These state-owned companies continue to have access to our telephone lines, fiber optic cables, cellular networks and satellites in ways that could give it (China) the ability to target the content of communications of Americans or their businesses and the U.S. government, including through the 'hijacking' of telecommunications traffic by redirecting it through China."
According to The New York Times, the telecom operators could use the access granted by FCC to "target Americans' communications." In simple words, communications on these networks may be easily rerouted to China – the senators believe that these networks will be used by their home country for spying in the US.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai told Reuters that both China Telecom and China Unicom are now under the scanner.
The Trump administration is arm twisting China as hard as it can – while these telecom operators are under review, US President Donald Trump has indicated that he might lift some restrictions on Huawei.
It also remains to be seen how hard the US can actually hurt China. The US might be a major market for China, but it has presence all over the world and more importantly, the country's domestic market in itself is large enough to sustain its companies.
Even such a move can be blocked if a senator objects to it. So, it remains to be seen how stringently China is treated.