China to Begin Security Vetting of Foreign Technology This Year

China’s Internet regulator announced a new mechanism to screen information technology products before they can be approved for use in the country.

The new system will go into effect this year, Peng Bo, deputy director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top Internet regulator, said at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

The regulator announced in May that products and services will be banned from entering the country if they aren’t deemed safe and controllable, official Xinhua News Agency reported at the time.

The decision to screen foreign technology was triggered by the revelations of former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who disclosed widespread spying by the U.S. National Security Agency. Snowden said U.S. intelligence services hacked into the computers of Tsinghua University, one of the China’s top research centers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

China is aiming to purge most foreign technology from banks, the military, state-owned enterprises and key government agencies by 2020 and substitute products produced by domestic suppliers, people familiar with the plan told Bloomberg last year. The push is part of President Xi Jinping’s effort to speed the development of the information technology industry announced at the first meeting of his new Internet security panel in February.

New Laws

The review will include new laws, regulations and government organs to facilitate and coordinate the oversight of technology, the regulator said in November.

Ni Guangnan, a leading scientist at Chinese Academy of Engineering, said in May that most of the key information products used in China are from the U.S., which has “potential security risks.” The new mechanism would protect domestic Internet security, and increase the threshold of foreign companies to enter China, Xinhua cited him as saying.

President Barack Obama referred to Chinese efforts to control access to its economy in his State of the Union Address Tuesday in Washington, saying China was trying to write the rules for the entire region.

“If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable,” Obama said. “If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.”

Separately, deputy director Peng said the department is planning a six-month nationwide campaign against Internet extortion. The review will target news portals, Internet companies, social media and public relation firms that are suspected of demanding money to forgo publishing damaging information about companies and individuals.

The country’s Internet regulators will also be a target because some officials have been found to be aiding to be engaged in deleting online posts for money. In September, a senior Internet regulator was fired for corruption.

— With assistance by Keith Zhai

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