BRUSSELS • China seeks to take control of Western data and networks, the United States ambassador to the European Union said, in the latest warning from Washington to its allies that they should think twice before using equipment from companies such as Huawei Technologies.
"China is working to establish itself as a cyber power through illegal frameworks and control over data and networks," American envoy Gordon Sondland told a telecommunications conference in Brussels.
Chinese laws require its state-owned and private companies to cooperate with and share data with Chinese intelligence and security, giving rise to US security concerns, he said on Thursday.
The US has been pushing European allies such as Germany to shun telecoms suppliers "subject to foreign government control".
President Donald Trump's administration sent officials to Berlin in December to step up pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel's government over Huawei, while the US embassy said allies and partners are being urged to be vigilant in ensuring network security, including when carriers award equipment contracts.
The warnings may be having an impact. Last week, the EU's digital chief urged the bloc's member states to consider the risk of partnering Chinese companies like Huawei.
In an interview, Mr Andrus Ansip, European Commission vice-president for digital affairs, said Chinese data laws have increased the risk in dealing with Chinese companies in Europe.
The concern voiced by Mr Sondland and Mr Ansip centre on China's National Intelligence Law, passed in 2017. The law requires any organisation and citizen to support and assist national intelligence in their investigations and to keep information related to such investigations.
Huawei has fought back against allegations that it is an enabler for Chinese espionage, and said that blacklisting the Chinese company without proof will hurt the industry and disrupt new high-speed technology.
Huawei has previously said it had commissioned a legal opinion to analyse the consequences of the law.
The opinion says the law does not require it to cooperate with state intelligence if it would contradict the legitimate rights and interests of individuals and organisations, a spokesman said.
On Tuesday, US prosecutors filed criminal charges against Huawei, alleging it stole trade secrets from an American rival and committed bank fraud by violating sanctions against doing business with Iran.
Huawei is one of the leaders in developing the next generation of network technology, known as 5G. Some countries have sought to limit the company's influence, with Australia banning Huawei equipment from carriers' planned 5G networks.
The US has made the security of networks and services a priority - and this has implications for 5G, said Mr Sondland. "This is not a decision about price or quality. This is a decision about whether or not to allow malign actors to take control of your national telecommunications system," he said.