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President-Elect Joe Biden Needs to Reassure Global Allies That ‘America First’ Policy is Over

Liana Sowa



Photo of Former CIA Director John Brennan from February 2019 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

December 4, 2020 – Panelists at The Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday morning agreed that for the U.S. to reassert its power globally, the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden needed to convince U.S. allies that Trump’s isolationist “America First” policy was over.

Former CIA Director John Brennan said that the country needs to reassert itself on the global stage in organizations where it has recently pulled back, like the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

He also said that the U.S. would need to have constructive dialogue with Russia, as well as deal with Iran and North Korea, assuring other countries that Trump administration isolationism was “just a blip.”

Sue Mi Terry, CSIS senior fellow and Korea chair was emphatic about the need to reassure our allies of our break with isolationism. She said it must be disconcerting to our allies that many Americans still voted for Trump this year.

Screenshot from the CSIS webinar

Brennan predicted that one of the challenges of the incoming administration would be having to deal with issues like the pandemic, climate change, and cybersecurity simultaneously.

Unlike previous administrations, said Victor Cha, CSIS senior advisor and Korea chair, Biden won’t be able to put the biggest crisis—the pandemic—on the back burner when prioritizing issues.

Brennan said that the new administration would likely be putting together an National Intelligence Priorities Framework document, NIPF, to aid in the prioritization decision-making. He also predicted that Biden would make more use of the interagency process.

Cha asserted that fixing the US’ domestic issues first would build credibility with our allies as we tried to “mend” those relationship because they would know we’re coming from a solid place.

CSIS Non-Resident Senior Advisor, Korea Chair, and Moderator of this discussion Mark Lippert, referenced a statement from National Director of Intelligence Dan Coats in his U.S. Worldwide Threat Assessment intelligence report (PDF),  which said that China and Russia were more aligned than they ever have been and that that alliance is likely to strengthen.

Disagreement over whether China and Russia are a joint threat

Brennan however disagreed with Coats, saying that while Russia and China may be flexing their muscles more, he doesn’t think there’s strong alignment between the countries.

Brennan said that while the U.S. has pulled back internationally, that may have given those countries the opportunity to strengthen other ally relationships. Going forward, Brennan said that things will be different.

Brennan also projected that Biden would take a pragmatic approach with China instead of viewing them as enemy, easing tensions in some areas, but competing in others. He admitted that some of the ways we may have to engage with China would be “distasteful,” but “we have to do it,” he said.

He asserted that Biden while he would probably not allow problems to fester in Iran and North Korea, would find ways to navigate these “global shoals” to maximize peace for global benefit.

Panelists also discussed North Korea specifically. Sue Mi Terry mentioned North Korea’s hacking attempts to get a cure for the virus and was adamant that the Biden administration needed to send some sort of peace signal to North Korea to avoid a major provocation down the road.

Victor Cha pointed out that North Korea has historically shut down their country longer than most others in the wake of a pandemic. He predicted that economically they might not be able to do that this time, which may lead to their collapse.

Reporter Liana Sowa grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. She studied editing and publishing as a writing fellow at Brigham Young University, where she mentored upperclassmen on neuroscience research papers. She enjoys reading and journaling, and marathon-runnning and stilt-walking.


Huawei’s Success In China A Win For Washington, Expert Says

The Chinese telecom giant is finding greater financial success on home turf, keeping it away from the U.S.

Benjamin Kahn



Photo of Scott Malcomson via

April 16, 2021— The Biden administration’s current maintenance of the previous government’s policy on isolating Chinese technology companies is appearing to pay off, according to experts.

Huawei, which has become the American symbol of alleged Chinese espionage, has seen increasing success in its home country of China, which is where the U.S. wants it to stay, experts say.

“The more you isolate Chinese tech companies, the more the [Chinese] government keeps them at home,” said “Splinternet” author and journalist Scott Malcomson at a Techonomy panel on Wednesday. He added that this strategy is beginning to pay off, citing the Chinese market now being more profitable for Huawei than going abroad.

The United States has instituted a number of restrictions against Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE, which has forced these companies to pivot.

He described China’s “soup to nuts” effort to establish a completely independent network: everything from satellites, to undersea fiberoptics, to e-commerce companies—China’s primary goal was to be able to handle all these sectors domestically.

Joy Tran, who is senior vice president of public affairs for Huawei Technologies USA,  corroborated the company’s domestic success, saying the Chinese market is now the biggest part of Huawei’s portfolio, which makes up 65 percent of its global revenue.

But Tran also said the company has always been completely compliant with Chinese and American law. “The US government really never told us about their concerns—we don’t understand [why Huawei is restricted from U.S. networks].”

Tran stated that Huawei has never had any “cybersecurity related issues,” and pointed to Huawei’s long-term operation in the U.K. as evidence that Huawei is not a bad-faith actor. Huawei also has deep relationships with academic and government institutions in Canada, which is the only country in the Five Eyes intelligence pact – which includes the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Australia – that has yet to make a determination about whether to ban Huawei from parts of its 5G networks.

Security concerns with Huawei

Tran also attempted to dispel the notion that the Chinese government forced Huawei to maintain backdoors into their hardware and software for spying purposes.

Though the U.S. government has long maintained the opposite, Malcomson argued that the point was moot. “Frankly, if you have a front door, you don’t really need a back door.” Malcomson said that the backdoor argument was merely a red herring that distracted from China’s aspirations and behaviors it had engaged in over the past several years.

Zachary Karabell, another author and former head of a financial services firm, argued Wednesday that the ongoing duel between the U.S. and China over Huawei’s standing was emblematic of the entire U.S.-China relationship.

Karabell’s position is that the question needed to be reframed: the question that needs to be asked is not, “Is the U.S. spying on China and is China spying on the U.S.?” The answer is clearly, yes.

The question that Karabell believes has not been sufficiently addressed is whether the production of equipment and the location of where said equipment is produced offers a competitive edge for intelligence gathering efforts.

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Loopholes Allowing Private Purchase Of Chinese Goods Must Be Closed: Commissioner Carr

Derek Shumway



Screenshot taken from CSIS event

April 5, 2021 – Loopholes that allow U.S. companies to use private funds to purchase equipment from Chinese-based companies like Huawei and ZTE should be closed, Federal Communications C Commissioner Brendan Carr said Tuesday.

Carr said last week at a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that while the U.S. government has been able to prevent companies from spending federal dollars on Chinese telecom equipment, legal loopholes still persist that allow companies to use private funds to purchase such equipment, leaving agencies like the FCC helpless in preventing these transactions.

Communist China has made it clear it wants to dominate the global semiconductor and chip market, and it is not opposed to using forced labor to achieve that goals. Be it garage door openers or computers, nothing should be allowed if it has ties to Uighur-related forced labor, Carr said.

“The CCP is committing genocide—crimes against humanity—in Xinjiang,” he noted.

Carr spoke broadly about the continued threats Chinese telecom equipment poses to U.S. national security interests.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined the new Biden administration’s strategic vision for U.S. foreign policy and identified China as the top geopolitical challenge facing the United States.

Commissioner Carr said there are bipartisan commitments to address threats from China, and that the FCC can continue to take steps to protect the U.S.’s 5G network infrastructure, including moving to block approval of devices that contain parts made from companies with ties to “Communist China,” or forced labor from places like Xinjiang.

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FCC February Meeting Targets 911 Fee Diversion and Replacing Foreign Telecommunications Equipment

Tim White



February 17, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission adopted two proposals in Wednesday’s meeting: Seeking comments on rule changes for 911 fee diversion, and also the secure and trusted network reimbursement program.

The first proposal seeks comment on a 911 fee diversion rule that would define what constitutes a diversion of those funds from their intended use. Part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, passed in December 2020, requires the FCC to issue these rules. Fees from 911 are levied by state and local governments to help pay for the operating costs of emergency services, which consumers pay through their phone bills.

The rule change intends to prevent states from diverting some of those funds for purposes other than 911 operations.

“Both Congress and the commission have long recognized that 911 fees should serve 911 purposes and have worked to combat fee diversion,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.

According to the FCC’s 2020 report, five states diverted over 200 million dollars from the 911 fees they collected. The vast majority of fee diversions occur in New York and New Jersey, according to National Emergency Number Association’s Brian Fontes.

The second proposal seeks comment on the secure and trusted network reimbursement program, which subsidizes funds to companies for replacing communications equipment due to national security concerns.

Several of the commissioners expressed concern about Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE technologies being used in the United States due to their ties to the Chinese government.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 allocated $1.9 billion to “remove, replace, and dispose of communications equipment and services that pose a national security threat,” said the FCC’s news release.

Both proposals received 4-0 affirmative votes.

Also notable during Wednesday’s meeting was Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s announcement of a new task force to address poor broadband mapping data. Jean Kiddoo was named chair of the task force.

During a press call following the meeting, Rosenworcel said that she supports spectrum sharing, which would allow providers to share space in certain areas of the radio wave spectrum. There are a lot of entities interested in the popular bands of the spectrum, and we need to be creative and efficient in how we use that space, she said.

Rosenworcel’s position conflicts with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, a trade association comprised of many communication companies, which supports exclusive access to parts of the spectrum.

Wednesday’s meeting marks the first FCC meeting chaired by Rosenworcel in her new position as acting chairwoman. She can serve in that position until President Biden puts forward a candidate to serve as chairman or chairwoman, and that candidate is confirmed by the Senate. Because Rosenworcel was already confirmed as a commissioner, she can serve in that role until her term expires.

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