Biden’s executive order targeting cybersecurity in ports ‘based on groundless accusations’
Published: Feb 23, 2024 01:16 AM
Cyber security. Photo: IC

Cyber security. Photo: IC

After continuous hype against so-called Chinese cybersecurity threats, which the Chinese foreign ministry has repeatedly refuted as groundless, the Biden administration announced a slew of actions to bolster its so called maritime cybersecurity of US ports in an executive order on Wednesday. Analysts warned of more follow-up trade protection measures and a negative impact on its own economic activities.

According to the White House, the Executive Order will give the Department of Homeland Security authority to directly address maritime cyber threats, including through cybersecurity standards. 

The White House depicted the move as one that will further “secure the country’s supply chains, and strengthen the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure against threats.” 

The executive order, based on groundless accusations, was made out of political considerations, Lü Xiang, a US studies expert and research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. 

By hyping cybersecurity issues relating to infrastructure, the US intends to tarnish China’s image in the field of ship-to-shore cranes, equipment that moves cargo containers off vessels, in order to pave the way to rolling out a broader spectrum of protective trade measures against China, Lü said. 

Most notably, the order will authorize the US Coast Guard to issue a Maritime Security Directive on cyber risk management actions targeting ship-to-shore cranes produced by China at US ports. 

Previously, some senior administration officials asserted the possible existence of cyber risks in the cranes. According to CNBC, the Coast Guard has so far evaluated 92 of more than 200 cranes. 

While attending the Munich Security Conference, where officials gathered to discuss ideas relating to conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, FBI director Christopher Wray, without valid evidence, jumped to an unwarranted conclusion and made groundless accusations against China over cyberattacks. 

Regarding the allegations made against China over cyber risks, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said on Monday that China firmly opposes and cracks down on all forms of cyberattacks in accordance with law, adding that it is the US Cyber Force Command that openly declared that the critical infrastructure of other countries is a legitimate target for US cyberattacks.
Analysts noted that the US habitually politicizes technology and trade issues and uses them as tools and weapons in the name of national security. The Biden administration insists that it is not interested in “decoupling” from China. However, the US has restricted the export of advanced computer chips, attempted to limit investment in China, and retained the expanded tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump, they said. 

While the order hyped security relating to China, it said the Biden administration is making an effort to rebuild the US’s industrial capacity to produce port cranes by introducing those from Japan.

The news apparently delighted US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emmanuel, who tweeted on Thursday that partners from Japan will replace unreliable Chinese cranes. Reacting to the tweet, Mario Cavolo, a US writer, joked on X that “he likes China scare mongering more than Fukushima radiated sushi...” 

Touting the notion of so-called Chinese cybersecurity threats and spreading them would potentially impact decision-makers of US allies to make similar actions pursuant to the US’ own judgment, which is driven solely by politics, Lü warned.