American technology firms are lobbying President Obama to address China’s protectionist policies during his upcoming visit with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The American Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Information Industry Council were among 19 U.S. industry groups that contacted Obama in an August 11th letter stating that the manner in which China pursues its national security is adversely affecting the ability of U.S. tech firms to do business there.
China fears the effect that the ever increasing prevalence of U.S. technology there will have on its national security. The fear is said to originate from the 2013 leaks of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which revealed the presence of backdoors in products from American tech firms. Apple and Google have since started encrypting data on their smartphones by default.
The news may illuminate an area where U.S. consumers agree with the concerns of the Chinese government. As the FBI continues to advocate for the placement of backdoors in consumer devices to allow state surveillance, the inevitable outcome of such a policy would be more incidents of criminal hacking into those same devices. By allowing encryption, the security of U.S. citizens in their personal effects that is guaranteed in the 4th Amendment, would also alleviate some of the concerns voiced by China.
China has in recent months specified what products can be used in critical businesses such as banking, in addition to its passage of a broad national security law in July that includes measures to tighten cybersecurity. On the U.S. side, Chinese businesses have also been restricted in their U.S. dealings for the very same fears regarding backdoors in technology products. The visit by Obama comes amid recent accusations of Chinese hacking efforts that breached the Office of Personnel Management, potentially affecting 18 million federal employees.