Taiwan has claimed that China is attempting to spy on other nations by backing private investment in Pacific undersea cable networks following a Reuters report in December 2020 that said that the USA has warned Pacific Island nations against security threats posed by a Chinese company.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told Newsweek on the 18th of December that China wants to “monopolize” communication networks in the Pacific to steal data from rivals. Reuters had reported a day earlier that the USA is concerned about Chinese involvement in the Kiribati Connectivity Project (KCP) that seeks to improve connectivity with Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
Huawei Marine, recently divested from Huawei Technologies Co Ltd but majority-owned by another Chinese firm, had submitted bids for the project which is backed by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). USA has communicated to FSM that Chinese firms are required by law to share information with Chinese intelligence and security agencies. The Nauru Government had also warned FSM, as per the report.
The FSM government told Reuters that it is talking to bilateral partners in the project, “some of whom have addressed a need to ensure that the cable does not compromise regional security by opening, or failing to close, cyber-security related gaps.” A Nauru Government spokesperson said that bids were being examined and “technical and administrative issues” were being addressed.
The project is reported to be further complicated by its planned connection to the HANTRU-1 undersea cable, primarily used by the US Government and Guam, a US territory with significant military assets. Huawei Marines is now majority-owned by Shanghai-listed Hengtong Optic-Electric Co Ltd, part of Hengtong Group. However, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd continues to retain a small stake in the firm.
China, for its part, claims that the USA is attempting to smear Chinese companies. Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were singled out for their allegations China was attempting espionage through the project.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “The Senators you mentioned will oppose whatever China does. They are always making up lies to smear China to seek political gains. Their allegation is pure slander aimed to justify the wanton US suppression of high-tech Chinese companies.”
China further stated, “It is the United States that has been conducting massive cyber theft all over the world, even on its allies, since PRISM came out. It is a real empire of hacking and theft. The world can see through the US trick of smearing others and beautifying itself.”
The development comes at a time when there is increasing tension between the two countries after US President identified China as the greatest threat to the current world order, a euphemism for American hegemony. With Joe Biden set to enter the White House on the January 20th, it is expected that the turbulence will recede to a certain extent.