Xinjiang, US sanctions hit Chinese 5G and O-Ran

New squeeze by the Biden administration on Xinjiang. Among the Chinese companies on the blacklist there is also Kindroid, a member of O-Ran, a project developed to find an alternative to the Huawei domain. And it’s not the first …

The Biden administration warns companies that have supply chains and investments in China’s Xinjiang region that they are running a “big risk” of violating US forced labor laws by being complicit in what the US and other countries identify as a genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. The Chinese reaction is predictable: Beijing will most likely accuse Washington, as it has already done in other similar cases, of “interference in internal affairs” and deny the accusations of genocide, forced labor and repression.


Six federal agencies (the departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, International Security and Labor, as well as the sales representative’s office) have released an update of the advice warning companies that do business in China that they are at risk of facing “obstacles. “In due diligence, such as regime controls, lack of government and corporate transparency, threats to auditors and a “police state” climate in Xinjiang.


The document invites companies to engage in a “due diligence strengthened “with respect to four main categories of transactions in Xinjiang: assistance or investment in the development of surveillance tools, including those related to genetic collection and analysis (a few days ago the revelation of the Reuters of prenatal tests sold all over the world by a Chinese multinational to amass immense genetic databases, from which it is possible to trace the genetic vulnerabilities of entire populations); procurement of labor or goods from Xinjiang or other regions related to the use of forced labor in Xinjiang; supply of US-sourced goods, software and technology to entities involved in surveillance or forced labor; assistance in the construction and operation of internment camps or production facilities that subject minorities to forced labor.


Twenty industrial sectors affected. These include agriculture, cell phones, cleaning supplies, construction, cotton manufacturing, electronics, extractive products, hair accessories and wigs, food processing factories, footwear, gloves, hospitality services, metallurgical grade silicon, spaghetti, products for printing, renewable energy, stevia, sugar, textiles and toys.


Among the 23 companies included in the Entity List (a sort of black list) of the Department of Commerce is Kindroid. The reason: “activities contrary to national security and US foreign policy”. In particular, Kindroid and other entities “are acquiring and seeking to acquire US-sourced items to support military modernization for the People’s Liberation Army,” the Federal Register reads.


Kindroid (Shanghai Jinzhuo Technology Co., Ltd.) is a leading company in the design and manufacture of chips for communication systems and provider of wireless solutions. And it is one of the companies that have joined the O-Ran Alliance, a project for the development of a modular network with open interfaces and ran that should favor greater transparency and diversification of suppliers, to which the Italian Tim has also joined.


With the squeeze on Kindroid, the Chinese companies in the O-Ran Alliance become seven, as he mentioned Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of the Ecipe think tank in Brussels, su Twitter. There are also the three big service providers China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, the information technology company Inspur, the one that produces Phytium chips and the telecommunications giant Zte, an “internal” rival of Huawei that in the past was featured in the Entity List. before being “released” on parole.


According to the latest research by Strand Consult, as many as 44 companies participating in the O-Ran Alliance (born in 2018, before the Trump administration targeted 5G “made in China”) are domiciled in China, the most represented country in the project after the United States (with 82). The latest developments, also in light of the geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing that cannot fail to bring the rest of the world into play, raise a question: O-Ran, an alliance designed to develop alternatives to Huawei but formed by other companies sanctioned by United States, is it not now obsolete?


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