Signs that some in Congress and Pentagon are finally cracking down on companies doing business with China

Did you know that Apple is "playing with fire"?  That's the opinion of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), just one of several senators who have condemned the U.S. company for putting Chinese chips in the iPhone 14.

These politicians are rightly concerned that a government-linked company in China might sell Apple's tech and consumers' information to the Chinese government.

Rubio and the rest aren't alone in their concern that China is worming its way into U.S. technology.

iPhones are bad enough; but Politico recently reported that "the Pentagon has temporarily halted delivery of F-35 fighter jets to the military branches and international customers" because it was informed that "a metal component used in the jet's engine had come from China."

The Defense Contract Management Agency found that an alloy used in magnets contained in the F-35 turbomachine pumps, part of the engine, was manufactured in China.  This violates a law that prohibits metal and alloy imports from China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia from being used in Pentagon acquisition programs.

What this means is that major corporations, including those tasked with arming the U.S. military, are brazenly putting national security at risk.  Thankfully, Rubio and the Pentagon seem to be taking the issue seriously.  The senator said that Apple "will be subject to scrutiny like it has never seen from the federal government" if it continues to "allow Chinese companies beholden to the Communist party into our telecommunications networks and millions of Americans' iPhones."

And the Pentagon rightly put the F-35 deliveries on halt while the security risk is investigated.

Pressuring companies to be careful when engaging with China can't come soon enough.  The country is a wholesale violator of human rights, intellectual property protections, and accepted norms.  The saber-rattling toward Taiwan and the threats against House speaker Nancy Pelosi show that the national security interests of China are in opposition to our values because China doesn't value individual freedom.  The Chinese government would like nothing more than to sell phones and military hardware loaded with embedded spying technology. 

It may have made sense for companies to take advantage of a cheap Chinese workforce at one time.  However, enough is enough — and companies are beginning to recognize that cost savings come with serious strings attached, which may be why the New York Times reported earlier this month that tech companies are shifting the manufacture of phones from China to India and Vietnam.  According to the Times, "the shift is a response to growing concerns about the geopolitical tensions and pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions that have involved China in the last few years."

Simply put, China is an adversary and should be treated as such by U.S. officials, the public, and businesses.  The heat Congress is putting on Apple should be a warning to other companies for using Chinese-made chips, and the Pentagon should use the F-35 as a warning to not use Chinese parts.  It's too little, too late — but perhaps it will inspire the rest of the West to wake up to the wholesale risk entailed by empowering the increasingly hostile Chinese government.

Gregory D. Rohrbough, J.D. is a former small business lobbyist.

Image: Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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