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The Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday that a state-owned Chinese telecom operator can no longer operate in the United States for national security reasons, as officials in Washington go further to limit the influence of Chinese companies over American consumers, businesses and communications networks.
The agency’s four commissioners voted unanimously to revoke the license for the American subsidiary of China Unicom, saying the company could access or reroute American communications and engage in spycraft. The commission also accused China Unicom, one of China’s largest mobile service providers, of misleading the agency and Congress.
China Unicom said in a statement that it “has a good record of complying with relevant laws and regulations and providing telecommunication services and solutions as a reliable partner of its customers in the past two decades.” It said the F.C.C. hadn’t given it “the required due process” and that it would “proactively protect the rights and interests of the company and its customers.”
The F.C.C.’s decision comes amid persistent tensions between Washington and Beijing over China’s influence in global technology and telecommunications.
Lawmakers and regulators have in recent years focused on the potential threats posted by Chinese phone carriers, which serve a small number of customers in the United States. Lawmakers including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a Democrat and the current majority leader, said in a 2019 letter that the F.C.C. should review the ability of China Unicom and China Telecom to operate in the United States. The F.C.C. told China Telecom in October that it could no longer offer service in America.
The Trump administration also ran a lengthy campaign against the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, warning allies that they should not use the company’s equipment in their next-generation 5G wireless networks and cutting off access to core components for its smartphones.
In 2020, the White House unsuccessfully tried to force ByteDance, a Chinese internet company, to sell TikTok, the viral video app, to an American owner, also citing national security reasons. Mr. Trump initially appeared to have forced a deal that would see much of the app sold to the enterprise software company Oracle. The sale was never finalized.