China telcos 'threaten security': US FCC

Under chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC designated China's Huawei and ZTE Corp national security threats.
Under chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC designated China's Huawei and ZTE Corp national security threats.

Chinese espionage and threats to telecommunications and internet freedom are a huge security issue for the US and beyond, outgoing US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai says.

Pai said there is a "wide array" of activity from China that is of concern, including surveillance, economic espionage and potential "injection of malware into networks here in the United States or around the world".

"There are a number of bad things that can happen when insecure equipment is used to handle sensitive information," he said.

Pai was named FCC chairman in January 2017 and stepped down on Wednesday. During his tenure, the commission cracked down on Chinese network manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE.

Last month, the FCC began the process of revoking authorisation for China's largest telecommunications company, China Telecom, to operate in the US.

"The Chinese Communist Party has a very determined world view," Pai said.

"They want to dominate this space and exert their will - even beyond their own borders.

"That is a serious threat not just to internet freedom but to national security for us and for many of our allies."

The Chinese foreign ministry said in December US claims about risks to national security were false.

Under Pai, the FCC formally designated China's Huawei and ZTE Corp as national security threats, barring US firms from tapping a $US8.3 billion ($A10.7 billion) government fund to purchase equipment from the companies.

Congress approved $US1.9 billion ($A2.4 billion) in December to pay for replacement of Chinese-made equipment in US networks.

In April 2020, the FCC approved Google's request to use part of a US-Asia undersea telecommunications cable, but not to Hong Kong, after US agencies raised national security concerns.

Australian Associated Press