Amidst increasing tensions between the US and China, the Trump government has divulged a five-part plan that will remove the existence of Chinese companies from the American internet. The Trump administration aims to drive these tech companies out of everything, be it telecom, or apps.
Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, announced that the US is planning a Clean Network, which is an extension of the 5G Clean Path initiatives that were announced this year. This program will ban Chinese apps from US-based app stores. It will also prevent US-based tech companies from storing data on Chinese cloud services.
Pompeo’s Clean Network plan is along similar lines to the Chinese ‘Great Firewall’. People in China do not have access to most US websites including Face book. The Chinese government has the power to regulate online content within the country.
The Clean Network will have a similar attitude towards apps as it did towards equipment providers like ZTE, Huawei, etc. One such example is TikTok, which faces a ban unless it is bought by Microsoft. According to Pompeo, companies in China are threats to the data of citizens of the US.
US officials also want to prevent Chinese phone manufacturers from installing American apps in China. This step comes as a reaction to Huawei’s alternative store, the AppGallery, which consists of apps from Microsoft, Amazon, etc.
Another focus of the program would be protecting American intellectual property and cloud services. The US government also wants to ensure that there are no opportunities along the chain where Chinese companies have access to trade secrets from the US.
Chinese tech giants like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent will not have access to collect, store, or process US user data. The program might also ask American companies to explain their relationship with the Chinese government.
Another element of the Clean Network will be the Clean Cable. This involves the inspection of undersea cables and how the Chinese government can use them to gather intelligence.
The Clean Network, however, is full of uncertainties at the moment. Firstly, the announcement has not been approved or funded as of now. Moreover, the program also ignores a lot of technical facets of how the Internet works. Besides, more than 70 countries across the world have infrastructure deals with China, something that cannot be stopped overnight.
If the Clean Network does manage to achieve its goals, it will lead to the ‘Splinternet’. The Internet Society (ISOC) has condemned this program, saying that measures like these will only lead the world closer to ‘Splinternet’. Splinternet is a fractured network, which fragments the internet by location. The ISOC also added that this is a disturbing trend and has governments interfering with the internet. This is usually done by governments to gain short-term political benefits without worrying about long-term damage.
Countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea already follow a similar pattern of censorship of online content from other countries. Nations like Russia have also aimed to have a self-governing internet, leading to a split of the free Internet that was supposed to surpass national borders.
In conclusion, a movie like this, that is politically motivated, could backfire. The assembly of a lot of gadgets we use happens in China and producing them on a similar scale will take time. Moreover, other countries could use the excuse of ‘national security’ to split US companies too.