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Central Asia: Are Chinese Telecoms Acting as the Ears for Central Asian Authoritarians?

Should Chinese telecommunications companies working in Central Asia be trusted? (Photo: David Tilling)

Two Chinese telecommunications giants are under scrutiny by a US congressional committee. The outcome of the probe could have revealing implications for Central Asian states, which have used these companies to modernize their telecom sectors.

US legislators have expressed concern that Huawei and ZTE act as front companies for the Chinese government, and represent a grave “cyber-security threat.” The chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, asserted during a congressional hearing last October that China is engaged in the “brazen and wide-scale theft of intellectual property from foreign commercial competitors.”

“Attributing this espionage isn’t easy, but talk to any private sector cyber analyst, and they will tell you there is little doubt that this is a massive campaign being conducted by the Chinese government,” he added.

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Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.

Central Asia: Are Chinese Telecoms Acting as the Ears for Central Asian Authoritarians?

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