With eye on China, Trump escalates cybersecurity battle with executive order

Image: Donald Trump and Xi Jinping
President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 9, 2017. -
Damir Sagolj Reuters file
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President Donald Trump on Wednesday declared a national emergency over foreign threats to U.S. communications infrastructure and services, a move that comes amid growing tensions with China and some of its major technology and telecommunications companies.

The executive order pointed to "the threat posed by the unrestricted acquisition or use" of information technology made or supplied by people under control of "foreign adversaries." No specific countries or companies were mentioned in the order.

The acquisition of U.S. companies by foreign countries, particularly China, in recent years has been the subject of renewed scrutiny over concerns that sensitive information, such as personal and potentially embarrassing personal details, could be taken and used in espionage efforts. Most recently, the Chinese gaming company Kunlun said it had agreed to a request by the U.S. governmentto sell the popular gay dating app Grindr.

There has also been scrutiny of the use of foreign technology for important U.S. communications infrastructure, such as cell towers from Huawei, the Chinese technology giant that has become the target of U.S. legal action. The company's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, is currently being held in Canada on U.S. charges of violating sanctions on Iran.

Under the order, the federal government will be able to block foreign technology companies from doing business in the U.S., setting the groundwork for a unilateral ban on Huawei's U.S. business interests. The U.S. government has already banned Huawei phones from military bases as well as the use of some Huawei telecommunications equipment.