Cyberwarfare / Nation-State Attacks , Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Governance & Risk Management
US Blacklists 7 Chinese Supercomputer EntitiesCommerce Department Cites National Security Concerns
Citing national security concerns, the U.S. Department of Commerce this week placed seven Chinese supercomputer organizations on the Entity List, which effectively bars them from receiving supplies or components from American companies.
Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo notes that the high-performance computing technologies developed by these entities could be used in weapons of mass destruction programs.
"Supercomputing capabilities are vital for the development of many - perhaps almost all - modern weapons and national security systems, such as nuclear weapons and hypersonic weapons," Raimondo says. "The Department of Commerce will use the full extent of its authorities to prevent China from leveraging U.S. technologies to support these destabilizing military modernization efforts."
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Now that these organizations have been placed on the Entity List, the Commerce Department will require them to apply for a special license to do business with U.S. companies or receive supplies or components from American firms.
The department's Bureau of Industry and Security must review and then approve or deny all license applications for organizations on the Entity List. While the restrictions against the seven Chinse supercomputer entities will go into effect immediately, the rules will not apply to supplies or components that are already en route to these organizations from U.S. businesses, according to this week's announcement.
The Supercomputer Entities
The seven Chinese supercomputer entities that are now blacklisted are:
- Tianjin Phytium Information Technology;
- Shanghai High-Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center;
- Sunway Microelectronics;
- The National Supercomputing Center Jinan;
- The National Supercomputing Center Shenzhen;
- The National Supercomputing Center Wuxi;
- The National Supercomputing Center Zhengzhou.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2019, the Trump administration started using the Commerce Department's Entity List to target Chinese firms that the White House believed posed a national security threat to the U.S. Telecommunications equipment manufacturers Huawei and ZTE, which were competing to provide gear for building 5G networks, were among the first to be placed on the list (see: Huawei Takes New Legal Step to Fight US Ban).
After the Commerce Department put Huawei and ZTE on the Entity List, other federal agencies began placing pressure on the two companies as well as other China-based businesses. For example, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that both Huawei and ZTE posed a national security threat and that smaller and rural carriers needed to take steps to replace the companies' telecom equipment used in their networks (see: FCC Upholds Ruling That Huawei Poses National Security Threat).
More recently, the FCC has taken steps to revoke the licenses of several Chinese telecommunications firms operating in the U.S., citing the same national security concerns (see: FCC Moves Toward Banning 3 Chinese Telco Firms From US).
Response to Espionage?
Tom Kellermann, head of cybersecurity strategy for VMware and a member of the Cyber Investigations Advisory Board for the U.S. Secret Service, believes that the Biden administration's latest actions against the supercomputing organizations in China are a response to Chinese espionage campaigns.
Kellermann says the Biden administration is also leveraging the so-called Quad - an informal agreement between the U.S., Japan, Australia and India designed to counter China's economic and military abilities.
"We should be very concerned with these escalating Chinese economic espionage campaigns," Kellerman says. "It seems that China has become emboldened. The Biden administration - between this action with the Commerce Department and the establishment of the Quad - is taking a much more holistic approach to the containment of this threat."
Developing a Strategy
While the Biden administration is continuing some Trump-era national security and cybersecurity policies related to China, some security experts and analysts believe that the White House is likely to chart its own course in the coming months (see: Biden Assesses US Policies on China Cybersecurity Issues).
This could include easing up the pressure on certain companies and firms that the Trump administration targeted. For instance, earlier this year, the Biden administration asked a federal court to delay a hearing on whether the social media and video app TikTok should be banned in the U.S. as the White House studies Trump's previous executive orders.
At a Wednesday press conference, Raimondo noted the Commerce Department is continuing to review policies regarding Chinese companies such as Huawei and ByteDance, which is the parent company of TikTok.
"A lot of people have said, 'Is Huawei going to stay on the Entity List?' I have no reason to believe that they won’t, but we’re kind of in the middle of the overall review of the China policy," Raimondo said. "My broad view is: What we do on offense is more important than what we do on defense."