The government has an obligation to prevent the leakage of confidential information and to defend against cyber-attacks. As long as there is a possibility of China’s involvement in illicit acts, it is an appropriate judgment to exclude Chinese technology companies from the government’s list of equipment suppliers.
New guidelines for government procurement of information communication equipment have been compiled. Under the guidelines, government procurement contracts are to be revised to take into account possible risks to national security, such as cyber-attacks. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a press conference, “It is important not to procure equipment with malicious functions built in.”
Although the government declares that the objective of the new move is not to exclude any specific companies or products, it effectively aims to drive out two major Chinese telecommunications equipment makers — Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. — from government procurement.
The Chinese Communist Party has come to intervene even in overseas activities of Chinese companies. The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping positions Huawei at the core of the country’s industrial promotion measures called “Made in China 2025.” There is suspicion that these two technology companies cooperate with the Chinese government’s espionage activities and cyber-attacks.
The United States, Australia and other countries have taken measures to eliminate the two companies from their lists of suppliers from which they procure equipment. The U.S. Defense Department, in its “Cyber Strategy” compiled in September, criticized China by name, stating that the country is “persistently exfiltrating sensitive information” from U.S. institutions.
China should reflect
With the Agreement on Government Procurement, the World Trade Organization prohibits, in principle, participating governments from excluding specific countries from procurement. But if there are security grounds, the relevant case would be an exception to the rules.
Japanese government organizations have constantly come under cyber-attack. In order to sustain the country’s safety, it is only a matter of course for the government to take more in-depth measures.
If next-generation mobile network technology, or 5G, spreads to its full potential, the amount of information communication data will increase dramatically, raising the risk of cyber-attacks. The government must steadily strive to mitigate such threats, by cooperating with the United States, Australia and other countries.
It will not be easy to find substitutes for the products made by these two companies. It is important to develop a new supply chain so as to be able to procure technology equipment from countries other than China.
The leading Japanese mobile phone companies are poised to go along with the government’s policy. Excluding the widely popular, low-priced Chinese devices from their purchases could affect their investment plans. It is necessary for the public and private sectors to join hands in advancing information-sharing regarding Chinese companies and to consider how to deal with them.
The Chinese government has opposed Japan’s latest decision. It should reflect seriously on the fact that many countries have boosted pressure on Chinese technology companies, including Huawei.
The detaining of a top executive of Huawei has brought to the fore the U.S. sense of wariness over Chinese businesses. It appears inevitable that the United States and China will intensify their antagonism in high-tech fields, in addition to their conflict over trade issues.