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Amid trade, Huawei furors, U.S. House panel launches China ‘deep dive’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee launched on Thursday a ÔÇ£deep diveÔÇØ focus on China this year and next, one of several moves by U.S. lawmakers focusing on what they see as troublesome activities by Beijing.

The committee held a hearing with outside experts looking at what members described as ChinaÔÇÖs use of technology for surveillance, influence and political control domestically and the use of Chinese technology for such purposes internationally.

The hearing took place a day after Republican President Donald TrumpÔÇÖs administration put telecommunications equipment giant Huawei on a blacklist and said it would take steps to protect U.S. companies, a further test of relations as the economic heavyweights clash over trade.

ÔÇ£Today, our nation faces no greater long-term strategic challenge than ChinaÔÇÖs emergence as a major actor on the global stage,ÔÇØ Representative Adam Schiff, the committeeÔÇÖs Democratic chairman, said in his opening statement.

Schiff said China used artificial intelligence, machine learning and facial recognition software, to cement social control. ÔÇ£This coupling of innovation and authoritarianism is deeply troubling and has spread beyond China itself,ÔÇØ Schiff said.

ÔÇ£Beijing has implemented an aggressive and sophisticated whole of society influence campaign to win supporters, sow confusion in the American public and undermine opposition to the Chinese threat within American society,ÔÇØ said Representative Devin Nunes, the committeeÔÇÖs ranking Republican.

Citing what he termed a ÔÇ£vast arrayÔÇØ of efforts from China against U.S. interests, Nunes criticized Democrats for having focused on questions about whether the Republican TrumpÔÇÖs presidential campaign had cooperated improperly with Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. election.

Schiff criticized Huawei at the hearing.

ÔÇ£HuaweiÔÇÖs own officials have confirmed that they have no interest in guaranteeing the civil liberties and privacy protection for the citizens in countries who purchase their equipment. This unacceptable. We cannot ÔÇö and should not ÔÇö stand by as civil liberties and privacies protection are degraded en masse,ÔÇØ he said.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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