Beijing lashes USA's China Telecom ban – but quite gently

Rolls out usual lines about national security being pretext for competitive action, more strident voices keep quiet


China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has responded with mild indignation to the USA's decision to revoke the operating licence that allowed China Telcom to operate in the land of the free.

In a Wednesday statement, the Ministry accused the USA of using national security as a pretext for banning Chinese companies, complained that evidence of China Telecom's alleged misdeeds has not been furnished, and that the ban breaches international trade rules.

The Ministry also objected to the decision on grounds that banning businesses without evidence isn't consistent with the usual practice of free market economies and called on the US government to rescind its decision.

A machine translation of the statement concludes as follows: "China will continue to take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises."

If the summation above feels familiar, it should. The language used does not diverge far from China's template for this sort of protestation, as readers may recall from incidents such as India's ban on Chinese apps.

Intriguingly, the ban on China Telecom has not so far generated a response from the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

Spokespeople from the Middle Kingdom's Foreign Ministry – some of whom operate fiery Twitter accounts and employ unsubtle language during daily briefings – have also avoided discussing the issue, batting away a question on the matter. The spokesfolks' output has instead focused on Taiwan, Australia, and the looming Winter Olympic Games.

So while Beijing is clearly miffed, it's not blowing up. Perhaps China Telecom's revenue from the Americas is the reason: the unit is thought to earn under $200 million a year, while global revenue for FY2020 topped $61 billion and growth is zipping along at over ten per cent year-on-year with consumer and industrial 5G surging. No business is comfortable losing 0.3 per cent of revenue at the stroke of a pen, but China Telecom can cope with the USA's ban. And so, it seems, can Beijing. ®

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