Trump administration recommends China Mobile be blocked from the US

The Trump administration has advised the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deny China Mobile from providing telecom services in the US, citing risks to US national security.

“After significant engagement with China Mobile, concerns about increased risks to US law enforcement and national security interests were unable to be resolved,” said David J Redl, assistant secretary for communications and information at the US Commerce Department.

“Therefore, the Executive Branch of the US government, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration [NTIA]… recommends that the FCC deny China Mobile’s Section 214 license request.”

China Mobile is the largest mobile telecommunications corporation by market capitalization and the largest mobile phone operator by total number of subscribers, with more than 902 million subscribers as of June 2018.

The Executive Branch said that “the deepening integration of the global telecommunications market has created risks and vulnerabilities”.

According to a heavily redacted petition [PDF], the Executive Branch said it assessed that China Mobile is “vulnerable to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government,” adding that “China Mobile would likely comply with requests made by the Chinese government.”

China Mobile International (USA) submitted its application for a certificate under s214 of the Communications Act almost seven years ago.

The recommendation against allowing China Mobile to enter the US telecom market comes amid heightened tensions between the US and China over trade and telecom.

Earlier this year the US Commerce Department found that Chinese state-owned tech giant ZTE had violated trade bans with North Korea and Iran. The US then banned ZTE from acquiring parts from American suppliers, which forced the company to put some of its major operations on hold.

The US said it would remove the ban on ZTE if the company agreed to a $1bn penalty, changed its management and hired a compliance team picked by the US. However, a group of bipartisan senators, including US Senator for Florida Marco Rubio, are trying to maintain the ban via an amendment to a defense bill.