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China’s cyberspace watchdog taps Huawei in tech self-reliance mission

A Chinese cyberspace official gave a lecture at Huawei Technologies Co, the Chinese telecoms equipment giant struggling under US trade sanctions, on ways to help the country’s technological self-sufficiency drive, according to the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).

The lecture, conducted by CAC deputy director Cao Shumin, is part of a talk series delivered by central government officials to local governments and enterprises focusing on the key themes of the 20th Communist Party congress that took place last month.

According to a brief statement released by the CAC on Sunday, Cao said China needs to accelerate breakthroughs in core technologies and build a self-sufficient system. She urged private companies to play a main role in helping the country achieve that goal.

Cao also said China will play to its strengths, namely in combining state and private power, to seek technological advancement.

Such visits by government officials are often seen as a sign of the state’s recognition of a company’s importance, heralding more state support, as well as control. Some 200 Huawei executives attended Cao’s lecture.

Another tech firm that received a visit from CAC officials was Kuaishou Technology, operator of the country’s second-largest short video app, which hosted a lecture by CAC deputy director Sheng Ronghua. He called on the company to toe the line with Beijing and to step up personal data protection.

The CAC’s recent lectures came after President Xi Jinping last month set the course for China’s development in the next five years, emphasising technological self-reliance and sending a supportive message to the country’s information technology, artificial intelligence and new energy sectors.

Washington, meanwhile, is stepping up its efforts to contain China’s technological development, with the Biden administration rolling out new measures last month to limit China’s access to advanced chip technologies. While Xi did not directly mention the US or the tech war during the party congress, he said China must catch up in areas concerning “developmental security”.

Huawei, which was added to a US trade blacklist in 2019, has become one of the biggest victims of Washington’s export restrictions targeting certain Chinese companies due to national security concerns.

The Shenzhen-based company has seen its once-lucrative smartphone business virtually wiped out after the US blocked its access to advanced chips, forcing the company to seek other revenue streams.

In a press conference on Monday promoting CAC’s new white paper on Beijing’s vision of the internet, Qi Xiaoxia, an international cooperation official at CAC said Huawei’s overseas business have been facing roadblocks because “certain countries” have abused the concept of national security and the mechanism of export controls to hurt Chinese businesses. He did not directly name the US. SCMP

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