China’s government used the launch of a global data security initiative to issue a thinly-veiled attack on US attempts to ban Huawei and other domestic vendors from global mobile networks.

In a speech announcing a programme designed to unite companies around common data security principles, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi blasted “a certain country” for making “groundless accusations against others in the name of clean networks”.

He accused the unnamed nation of using “security as a pretext to prey on enterprises of other countries who have a competitive edge”, and called for “such blatant acts of bullying” to be rejected in favour of its new approach.

The programme covers eight key tenets including approaching data security objectively, maintaining an open global supply chain, opposing use of ICT to impair another country’s critical infrastructure or steal data, and standing against the use of technology to conduct mass surveillance against other nations.

US campaign
The comments appeared to be a response to the Clean Networks programme launched by the US in April 2020, which included an initiative restricting the use of Huawei equipment in mobile communications between the country and its diplomatic offices.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo added five more areas of focus in August, including a scheme to prohibit “untrusted” Chinese vendors and operators from handling international communications.

He also outlined plans to block Huawei and other Chinese vendors from installing popular US apps on their devices; remove apps deemed a threat from US app stores; prevent sensitive information being stored on cloud systems operated by China-based companies; and protect data transmitted on submarine cables.