FCC ban of Chinese surveillance equipment may further erode U.S. government trust
Andy Mok
The Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. in Hangzhou, China, May 28, 2019. /Getty

The Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. in Hangzhou, China, May 28, 2019. /Getty

Editor's note: Andy Mok is a research fellow at Center for China and Globalization. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

According to a Pew Research Center study released last year, just 20 percent of U.S. adults say they trust the government in Washington to "do the right thing" just about always or most of the time. The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) recent plan to ban Chinese surveillance equipment from Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. , Dahua Technology Co. and others will raise costs and create unnecessary problems and safety gaps for schools, police departments and other vital institutions across the United States.

Instead of providing millions of Americans with a much-needed sense of greater safety and security, this action will only add to the already considerable fear and anxiety felt by Americans throughout the country. And so, the FCC will further erode trust and confidence in the federal government.

The United States is becoming an increasingly dangerous place with no place safe from the most horrific kinds of violence. Shootings at schools, hospitals, workplaces and concert venues have become commonplace and are a regular feature of the daily news. And while this has become a dispiriting sort of new normal, Americans are not completely numb to the mayhem and carnage. There may be a veneer of resignation but there is also fear and anxiety percolating underneath.

Americans are much more tolerant of indifference and even incompetence in their government. But like people everywhere the world over, they also yearn for a government that can keep their lives and property free from harm. According to Pew, while Americans may not trust their government, majorities want the government to play a major role on everything from keeping the country safe from terrorism to ensuring access to healthcare and alleviating poverty.

Surveillance cameras and other equipment play a crucial role in actually keeping people safer. But cameras in particular have symbolic importance as the presence of cameras can promote a sense of safety as well as help deter crime. Because of this, installing and operating a complete network of surveillance equipment has become a cornerstone for local governments responsible for helping their citizens cope with a life that many around the world would find unacceptably terrifying.

However, the United States practices a uniquely cruel and barbaric form of capitalism arising from its legacy of race-based slavery. This is a system which glorifies capital and profit at the expense of the lives and dignity of ordinary Americans. As a result, many local governments also struggle under severe budget constraints in meeting the most basic needs of its people. For these institutions, inexpensive, reliable and high quality surveillance equipment is a godsend.

Attendees walk past a display for 5G services from Chinese technology firm Huawei in Beijing, October 31, 2019. /AP

Attendees walk past a display for 5G services from Chinese technology firm Huawei in Beijing, October 31, 2019. /AP

Through Chinese innovation and manufacturing expertise as well as the diligence, sacrifice and perseverance of its workers, companies like Hikvision, Dahua, ZTE and others have provided low cost, reliable and technologically superior solutions that play a key role in mitigating the symptoms of a toxic American ideology and system of governance. 

Just as with many other parts of daily life from home furnishings and consumer electronics to apparel, these companies have provided hundreds of millions of Americans with a significantly higher quality of life than they could otherwise enjoy. Ironically, this has gone unnoticed by many Americans.

If the FCC does ban Chinese surveillance equipment, many ordinary Americans will suffer the consequences as local governments, police departments, schools and hospitals become more vulnerable that the kind of horrific violence that has become all too common in the United States today. It will be further proof that the mistrust that many Americans have of their government is warranted and that government has little understanding of or interest in the well-being of the people it claims to represent.

While claims of national security threats are legitimate, these concerns can be addressed when expressed as specific evidence-based vulnerabilities and not as vague, demonizing and unfounded allegations. Moreover, any device connected to the internet can be subject to unauthorized access irrespective of the equipment's country of origin. We need to look no further that the recent SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline hacks to see this.

Trust is fragile and once broken may be difficult if not impossible to regain. The FCC historically has enjoyed a strong reputation. But this ban may not only undermine its standing amongst the American people but contribute to a further and perhaps irrevocable loss of trust in the government overall.

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