Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Fight Chinese Tech Theft and Supply Chain Threats

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The legislation would create a White House office to help the government punch back against economic espionage.

Lawmakers on Friday unveiled bipartisan legislation that would strengthen the government’s response to international technology theft and supply chain risks posed by global powers like China.

The yet-unnamed bill, introduced by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., would stand up a group within the White House to coordinate agencies’ efforts to protect the U.S. tech sector. The Office of Critical Technologies and Security would also be charged with creating a governmentwide strategy to combat state-sponsored technology threats, something Warner has pushed for heavily in recent months.

Policymakers and industry experts have long censured China’s habit of stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies to bolster its own domestic tech market. Despite a 2015 agreement to curb such practices, officials warn the country has continued conducting economic espionage.

But because the international community has yet to reach a consensus on rules for cyberspace, the U.S. largely lacks a blueprint for responding to and deterring these online incursions. In a sweeping policy proposal last month, Warner pressed the government to create a coherent strategy for addressing technology theft and other “hybrid cyberwarfare” activities being waged by adversaries.

Through the bill, lawmakers hope to lay the groundwork for that unified approach.

“China continues to conduct a coordinated assault on U.S. intellectual property, U.S. businesses, and our government networks and information,” Rubio said in a statement. “The United States needs a more coordinated approach to directly counter this critical threat and ensure we better protect U.S. technology. This bill will help protect the United States by streamlining efforts across the government.”

Under the legislation, the office would work with agencies, the tech industry and U.S. allies to lock down the international supply chain and defend against intellectual property theft. It would also educate citizens and businesses about the national security implications of tech transfers and reliance on foreign products.

For years, lawmakers have sought to limit Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE from entering the U.S. market. Because the firms are so intertwined with the Chinese government, officials worry they would increase the country’s ability to spy on American consumers and businesses.