The US is expanding its China-targeted Clean Network program to include Chinese-made cellphone apps and cloud computing services that it claims are security risks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday.

Pompeo said the US wants to ban untrusted Chinese apps from the app stores of US mobile carriers and phonemakers.

apps phone wechat facebook twitter social
Photo: Álvaro Ibáñez, via Flickr.

“With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat, and others are significant threats to the personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for CCP content censorship,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

But he added that the US also wants to block American-made apps from being pre-installed, or made available for download, on Chinese-made phones and wireless equipment from global giant Huawei and other makers.

“We don’t want companies to be complicit in Huawei’s human rights abuses or the CCP’s surveillance apparatus,” the top US diplomat said.

Pompeo also said the US government will seek to limit the ability of Chinese service providers to collect, store and process sensitive data in the United States.

Alibaba's headquarter in Hangzhou
Alibaba’s headquarter in Hangzhou. File photo: Daniel Cukier via Flickr.

He cited specifically Chinese tech giants Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.

His announcement came two days after President Donald Trump told Chinese tech company ByteDance to sell its hugely popular TikTok app to an American company or see it shut down by mid-September.

Washington says TikTok gleans massive amounts of personal data from hundreds of millions of users, which could be passed on to Chinese intelligence.

The targeting of app usage and cloud services expands the 5G Clean Path program the State Department unveiled on April 29.

At its core the program is a multi-country initiative to prevent Huawei and other Chinese telecom suppliers from dominating next-generation or 5G wireless telecom services.

The United States says Huawei technology could open the door for Chinese intelligence to easily tap communications in other countries. 

Huawei 5G Taipei
Huawei Experience store in Taipei. File Photo: Wikicommons.

The US government has banned Huawei equipment and strongly discouraged authorities and businesses around the country from using it.

China’s ambassador in London Liu Xiaoming condemned on Wednesday the Clean Network program as bullying and called it contrary to free trade ideals.

“The US bullying on the issue of 5G not only undermines fair international trade rules, but also damages the environment of free global market. The US is not qualified at all to build so-called ‘Clean Network,'” Liu said in a tweet.

AFP is a global news agency delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world from wars and conflicts to politics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology.