Conservative Groups Make Their Case For Allowing American Companies To Work With China On 5G

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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  • Conservative groups are at odds over whether the Trump administration should allow companies link up with Chinese companies to help building out fifth generation mobile service. 
  • Former Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, meanwhile, is warning that China will not play by “free market rules,” so accessing China’s market is too risky a venture. 
  • The dispute comes after reports suggested conservatives and Republicans were wrestling about possibly nationalizing aspects of 5G development. 

Conservative groups are urging the Trump administration not to prevent companies from doing business with China on fifth generation mobile service even as former Rep. Mike Rogers says such ideas are foolish.

Conservatives for Property Rights and other free market-oriented groups sent a Jan. 23 letter to administration officials asking President Donald Trump to allow companies to do business with Chinese firms. Cutting off American companies from such firms hurts both countries, they argue.

“So-called ‘decoupling’ — effectively creating two separate wireless technology regimes, one led by the U.S. and one led by China — would undermine American companies’ and thus America’s ability to innovate in 5G,” the letter reads.

Leaders from the Tea Party Patriots Action, Conservatives for Property Rights and Americans for Limited Government were among those who signed the letter.

The letter is addressed to White House economic policy adviser Larry Kudlow and Robert O’Brien, Trump’s fourth national security adviser, among other officials. (RELATED: Trump Makes A Big Push For 5G As Some Republicans Lobby For Nationalizing Such Technology)

“Dividing wireless technology into two spheres of influence would damage our national security, both by preventing China from adopting — and paying U.S. innovators for — U.S. made wireless technology” and by preventing companies from engaging in global trade, the letter added.

The letter’s writers noted that any work with Chinese telecommunications firms must be done in a way that does not negatively impact national security. Keeping Huawei and ZTE from worming themselves into the U.S.’s national security system is easier said than done, according to Rogers.

“China and Huawei do not play by free market rules at all,” he said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Huawei receives generous support from Beijing, artificially manipulates its prices to undercut competitors, and openly steals the intellectual property of its competing firms.”

“If you think that accessing the Chinese market is worth risking your intellectual property and American competitiveness” and will play by free market rules, then “I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you,” Rogers added.

House Permanent Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogers (C), R-MI, arrives for a closed briefing by administration officials for the House Armed Services Committee and Intelligence Committee on Syria on September 9, 2013 in the House Visitors Center of the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

House Permanent Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogers (C), a Republican, arrives for a closed briefing by administration officials for the House Armed Services Committee and Intelligence Committee on Syria on Sept. 9, 2013 in the House Visitors Center of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Rogers serves as chairman of 5G Action Now, a newly formed group fighting to goose the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on 5G technology and warn Americans that China is poised to take the lead on such technology. Rogers wants the FCC and other agencies to put aside their differences aside and speed up development.

“The Chinese were running around the world with suitcases of money, bribing their way into getting contracts, something we should not do in the U.S. It would have been a disaster,” Rogers told the DCNF on Jan. 13. He served as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

China has reportedly spent $24 billion more on wireless communications infrastructure since 2015 than the U.S. The country also built more 5G towers in a three-month span in 2017 than the U.S. did in three years. There are also concerns that Huawei’s and ZTE’s close ties to China leave the U.S. open to cyberattacks.

Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, was reportedly a technician for the People’s Liberation Army before founding the company. Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou spent more than six months in 2019 on house arrest as the executive faces allegations of attempting to evade U.S. trade sanctions on Iran.

The letter imploring Trump to avoid decoupling comes after reports suggest that conservatives were wrestling with different aspects of the issue. In particular, conservatives debated whether the federal government should provide one company control over how much spectrum is built out.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, for instance, tweeted in 2019 his support for a federal role in 5G development. Republican adviser Karl Rove also pressed Congress that year to nix legislation that effectively prohibits nationalization of fifth generation development.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives two thumbs up. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The president is giddy about the possibility of canvassing the country in new wireless infrastructure. “I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard,” Trump said in a 2019 tweet.

Still, build out on 5G is a slow-go as federal agencies worry the spectrum could impact industries they regulate.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, for one, urged the Federal Communications Commission in November to slow down on spectrum rollout, citing concerns related to “national security, civil service, and the economic benefit of the nation.” The FCC announced in April 2019 that it will auction three slices of millimeter-wave airwaves.

The holdup is having a downstream impact on wireless companies. Ligado Networks has waited a couple of years for permission to use a broad swath of wireless spectrum to build out fifth generation infrastructure. The company “can only wait so long,” Ligado CEO Doug Smith said in a June 2019 statement.

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