Chinese Technology Platforms Operating in the U.S.: Putting the Risks into Context

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A recent report lays out the risks associated with Chinese technology platforms operating in the United States. The report was prepared by professors Jennifer Daskal and Gary Corn from AUWCL’s Tech, Law, and Security Program and the National Security, Technology, and Law Working Group at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

In the fall of 2020, the Trump administration issued dual executive orders designed to effectively ban TikTok and WeChat from operating in the United States, at least in their current forms. In January 2021, the same actions were taken against Alipay and seven other Chinese-owned apps. These actions came against the background of years of executive orders and rules aimed at limiting the reach of China-based technology firms. Each of these actions was based, in significant part, on assertions of national security. Going forward, the US government has an urgent need for smart policies and practices to respond to China’s growing tech sector and the spread of China-controlled platforms. The Biden administration will have to decide what to do about TikTok and WeChat. It also will need to develop a broader US strategy for addressing the range of security risks (e.g., economic, national security, cybersecurity) and threats to civil liberties posed by the spread of China-developed and -controlled technologies.

The repot seeks to contribute to these efforts by suggesting a comprehensive framework for understanding and assessing the risks posed by Chinese technology platforms in the US. It recognizes that not all threats are equal. Actions with respect to Huawei, federal bans on the use of Chinese-manufactured drones, executive orders targeting TikTok and WeChat, and recently suggested prohibitions on US companies doing business with foreign-owned cloud infrastructure all assert general risk to national security as a justification. But the specific threats and risks posed by each of these unique technologies vary. The primary goal of this report is to frame, assess, and disaggregate the various national security risks associated with one specific aspect of this threat: China’s ownership and control over communication platforms and other technologies used in the United States. An effective policy must start with a targeted understanding of the nature of risks and an assessment of the impact U.S. measures will have on national security and competitiveness.

To read more, please see the full report here.