Over the weekend, news broke that Google revoked Huawei’s Android license for new devices, cutting off the Chinese tech company’s access to critical Google apps. Now, longtime Huawei critics on Capitol Hill are applauding Google’s move and encouraging other tech companies to follow suit.
Lawmakers like Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have been sounding the alarm on Chinese companies like Huawei for years, and in statements provided to The Verge today, approved of Google’s decision. Rubio called the action “wise,” and Van Hollen said it sent a “clear message.”
Regulators, lawmakers, and the Defense Department have long warned that Chinese tech companies like Huawei and ZTE pose a significant national security threat to the United States, despite much of the intelligence information they cite being classified.
The criticism translated into action when lawmakers attached language to a must-pass military spending bill last summer that banned government agencies from purchasing Chinese telecom equipment. And just last week the administration escalated tensions when President Trump signed an executive order giving the Commerce Department the ability to block US companies from purchasing foreign-made telecom equipment. Now, Google is extending this ban privately by revoking Huawei’s ability to use the company’s Android operating system.
The Google Play Store and Play Protect will continue to function on current Huawei devices, but any new smartphones and tablets will not support many of these critical apps.
Rubio and Cotton were two lawmakers who spurred the Hill discussion on Huawei and its potential security risks. In statements on Monday, the lawmakers applauded Google’s move.
“With Google’s wise decision today, we’re already starting to see significant impact in the tech sector after the Trump Administration announced plans to blackball Huawei by adding it to the Commerce Department’s Entity List.” Rubio said. “The United States is leading the way as it urges allies and partners, such as Britain, to avoid entangling themselves with Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese state-directed telecoms firms.”
Cotton spearheaded legislation at the beginning of the year that would ban the export of US parts to Chinese companies like Huawei if they were to violate export control or sanction laws. In a statement Monday, Cotton said, “Chinese spy companies like Huawei pose serious threats to our national security. American companies ought to follow Google’s lead by severing ties with Huawei.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) co-sponsored the Cotton bill, making it a bipartisan effort, and told The Verge, “This Administration has finally recognized what we’ve been raising the alarm about in Congress — Huawei and ZTE pose a threat to our privacy and national security — and they should have no place in our telecommunications infrastructure.”
“Google’s actions, in response to the Commerce Department’s order, are part of our clear message that bad actors will not be tolerated,” Van Hollen continued.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was more skeptical of Google’s move, suggesting that the company could have revoked the license before Trump signed last week’s executive order.
“Google’s decision today raises more questions — how many other partnerships do they have with firms like Huawei that could be ended with the flip of a switch?” Hawley said. “The reality is that until the administration took action, Google turned a blind eye to the practices of Huawei because they wanted to turn a profit.”
The Federal Communications Commission has also ramped up efforts against Chinese companies. Last week, the FCC voted to block China Mobile from integrating into US networks and commissioners like Brendan Carr have even called for national security agencies to investigate whether China Unicom and China Telecom should be removed from them entirely.