Biden doubles down on Trump’s China blacklist
With the end of the Trump presidency, many of the Chinese tech firms that had spent years languishing on the US’ blacklist felt, for the first time, a glimmer of hope. Hope for a rekindling of economic relations between the US and China that might signal an end to the trans-Pacific trade war.
President Joe Biden thoroughly quashed those hopes this week, announcing an amended, expanded version of Donald Trump’s ban on US investment in and dealings with Chinese firms suspected of having ties to the PRC military. The ban prohibits US investment in 59 chinese companies, with a particular focus on the communications sector.
Companies banned by the Biden administration include Huawei (the beleaguered poster child for the deterioration in US-Sino relations), and all three of China’s major telecom carriers, China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Unicom.
Most of the entries on the list are firms that already found themselves on the wrong end of the US’ sanction baton over the past two years. These included a slew of Chinese defence manufacturers and industrial firms, as well as Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology - a surveillance camera and facial recognition firm that is helping the Chinese government perpetrate an ongoing genocide against the country’s Uyghur population.
The order will ban US interests from buying stock or investing in any of the 28 firms newly added to the blacklist effective August 2. US companies and individuals that already have stakes in those companies will have a year to divest themselves of their interests.
The move has drawn “consternation” from investors on Wall Street, but cautious approval - even from politicians on the other side of the aisle from Biden. Representative John Katko (a Republican congressman from New York) praised the Biden administration’s firm stance against Huawei in particular, calling Huawei’s attempts to “shift its business model to software development”, thus sidestepping US sanctions, “cause for grave concern.”
“Huawei has long posed a threat to the very foundation of the telecom sector and the backbone of the digital world through its proliferation of goods delivered at below market value in an attempt to corner a critical global economic sector,” Katko wrote in an op-ed for CNBC.
Biden’s move is likely the first step in a series of attempts to sway international opinion among the US’ allies that have yet to issue bans against Huawei and other Chinese firms - a campaign that will likely begin at the NATO Group of 7 summit next week.
The news will likely come as a further blow to Huawei, which has seen its smartphone business dramatically weaken over the past two years and remains in a frantic fight for a return to autonomy - its latest effort being the launch of HarmonyOS on Wednesday of this week.
UK NFIB issues warning over mobile phone scams
The UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has issued a warning to mobile phone users after being made aware of an ongoing mobile scam involving customers being “cold-called” by individuals impersonating employees of mobile network operators and suppliers.
What is the mobile network scam and what happens?
According to the organisation, the scams include offers of early handset upgrades, or new contracts with significant discounts. The NFIB says that, once scammers have convinced the customers that the deals are genuine, they then ask for online mobile account credentials, home addresses, bank account details, logins, and passwords.
Using these details, the suspects then place orders with genuine companies on the victims’ behalf, before selecting a different handset to the one requested, and sending it to that victim’s home address.
Once the victims have received the handsets, the suspect then explains that it was made in error, instructing them to send the handset to a different address not associated with the company they claim to be calling from. The NFIB says that these addresses are normally residential.
The final stage involves the scammers intercepting the supposedly returned devices before ceasing all contact with the victim, leaving them with no phone and no mobile network contract.
Since January 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has received over 300 reports of this particular scam, reporting losses exceeding £86,000. So what can you do to protect yourself?
How to protect yourself from a mobile network scam
- If the caller asks about mobile upgrades and network contracts, hang up without giving out any personal information if you are unsure as to whether the call is genuine or if you think that the person calling is not from the company they claim to be from.
- Only contact your mobile network provider using a number that you know is correct. But what if you don’t know? There are usually contact details such as this and including a phone number on the operator’s official website.
- If you receive a device or handset that you didn’t order, contact the genuine sender immediately, the details of which will be displayed on the parcel or package the device was shipped in.
- NEVER post a device to an unknown address. Genuine employees of mobile networks would not ask you to do this and would always send a jiffy bag or empty package for you to return the device without any additional charges.
Any incidents can be reported to Action Fraud at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.