GT Voice: US hits new low in crackdown on Chinese telcos with ‘forced labor’ lies
Published: Mar 31, 2021 08:13 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr on Tuesday urged to further ratchet up the US' crackdown campaign on Chinese telecommunication firms Huawei and ZTE, seeking to further bar the firms' equipment from US networks. In making the call, Carr did not simply invoke the old cliché of national security concerns. He actually suggested the move was aimed at "forced labor" in producing electronic devices.

Without providing a shred of evidence or even reports of so-called forced labor in the telecom supply chain, Carr said that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could do more to address "abuse of ethnic and religious minorities" in China, especially in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Reuters reported. In response, the FCC said that it was already "addressing many of the issues" raised by Carr. 

If Carr's calls are followed through, it would represent a serious escalation in the US' crackdown on the Chinese firms as well as an expanded use of the "forced labor" lies in arguing for more actions against China.

For several years now, the US and some of its Western allies have been pushing unsubstantiated and widely-debunked claims of "forced labor" in Xinjiang. After they stepped up their smearing campaign against China over Xinjiang-related issues in recent months, those lies translated into action by some Western clothing companies like H&M that banned cotton produced in Xinjiang. These firms faced a rapid and severe backlash from Chinese consumers, leading to some organizations and companies to state that no cases of "forced labor" were found in Xinjiang. 

But even as the fallout of those bans continues, a high-ranking US official has actually come out and claimed "forced labor" in one of the most tech savvy and high-paying sectors and call for a ban in the US. That is simply unbelievable to hear and is really a new low for even the US, which has spared no efforts and followed no rules whatsoever in its containment strategy against China's ascent. What happened to "national security concerns?" The new "forced labor" claim is just another case in point to show the US' ill-intentioned attempt to stop China's advances at any cost.

It has been very clear for a while that US President Joe Biden is carrying on, if not stepping up, his predecessor Donald Trump's crackdown on Chinese telecommunication companies and other businesses. However, there was some expectation that unlike Trump, the new administration might follow certain protocols and international norms and rules. And while there will always be stiff competition between the world's two biggest economies, there will also be areas of mutual interest and cooperation.

In diplomatic terms, US officials, including Biden himself, has stated that while competition would be "extreme," the US would not seek conflict. At a press briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said that "just like the US relationships with any country, there are areas of mutual interests. There are areas where we can communicate [and] work together on." Earlier, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai also suggested that the US was open to potential trade talks with China, though it would keep tariffs as "leverage." 

Chinese officials have been very straightforward from the beginning that they are open to dialogues but would not give in ground on issues related to China's core national interests. 

However, even as they talk of potential exchanges and even cooperation with China, US officials have taken a growing list of actions that grossly interfere with China's internal affairs on issues related to Xinjiang, Hong Kong and other areas and, in many areas, damaged Chinese interests. That would certainly not help kick start constructive talks with China and find areas of mutual interests.

China has firmly stood on its ground and effectively protected its own interests against US clampdown over the past several years. As its economic, technological and overall national strength continue to grow, there is no reason that China would allow the US to continue hurt Chinese interests without any pushback. 

The bottom line is: As US officials continue to grandstand for various radical anti-China quarters in the country with such petty shows, China will stand firm and continue to advance its own development, including in the telecom sector.  

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