EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, unveiled a bill Thursday to ban U.S. officials from using tech platforms supported by the Chinese government and bar taxpayer dollars from being used for related U.N. contracts -- the latest move amid growing tensions between the U.S. and China.
Co-sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., the “Countering Chinese Attempts at Snooping,” or CCAS Act, comes as lawmakers and the Trump administration seek to push back against Chinese espionage efforts and global dominance.
Cruz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News that Chinese companies such as Tencent and Huawei “[a]re espionage operations for the Chinese Communist Party [CCP], masquerading as telecom companies for the 21st century.”
“Prohibiting the use of these platforms and stopping taxpayer dollars from being used to capitalize Chinese espionage infrastructure are common-sense measures to protect American national security,” he said. “These are just some of the measures we will have to take as the United States reevaluates its relationship with China and the CCP.”
The bill notes that Chinese tech companies such as Huawei, Tencent, ZTE, Alibaba and Baidu “have no recourse but to assist the Chinese Communist Party with securing access to foreign technologies and foreign networks, conducting espionage including commercial espionage, and gaining insight into the profiles, activity, or location of foreign users of Chinese hosted or facilitated social media, computer or smartphone applications.”
Cruz’s bill would require that a list be created by the Secretary of State of Chinese tech companies that enable the CCP in espionage. That list would then prohibit all U.S officials from using technology provided by those companies.
Cruz’s bill also takes aim at the United Nations, where there has been a surge in Chinese influence in recent years. The bill would offset U.S. payments to the U.N. equal to the amount paid by the world body to any of those Chinese companies.
Earlier this month, Foreign Policy Magazine reported that the United Nations had backed off a deal it had with Chinese Internet giant Tencent to help as a platform for thousands of online conversations to celebrate the United Nation’s 75th anniversary, or UN75, which takes place later this year.
When asked by Fox News if the Tencent deal had been scrapped, UN75 spokesperson Lisa Laskaridis told Fox News that “the UN75 Office is still in consultations with Tencent, no partnership agreement has been concluded.”
Just last year, Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Chris Ford, while speaking at a conference on Sensitive Technologies in D.C., outlined the links between China and some of its best-known tech companies.
“Firms such as Huawei, Tencent, ZTE, Alibaba, and Baidu have no meaningful ability to tell the Chinese Communist Party ‘no,’” Ford said at the time.
Ford noted that such asks could be anything from requests for access to foreign networks or computer or smartphone applications. He added that “such aid may not necessarily occur routinely, but it certainly can occur -- and presumably will -- whenever the Party considers this useful and cares to demand it.”
Attention has been renewed on Chinese influence, particularly at the U.N., in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China has spread throughout the world.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed on-record for the first time Thursday that the U.S. intelligence community is investigating whether the outbreak started as the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
President Trump also announced this month a pause in funding to the World Health Organization amid concerns about the body’s alleged pro-China ties.
Fox News' Gillian Turner contributed to this report.