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China attempts to leverage stockpile of medical equipment to get other countries to use Huawei 5G

National security concerns

French president Emmanuel Macron and Chinese president Xi Jinping. (Jason Lee - Pool/Getty Images)

China, the country where the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 originated, has been providing personal protective equipment to other countries that have been hurt by the pandemic. Sometimes, however, that offer of assistance comes with a catch.

Republican Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee said on Fox News on Sunday that when France asked for some medical masks, China attempted to leverage that need to get France to use its Huawei 5G network.

"In France, we were told yesterday on a conference call that [French President Emanuel] Macron was talking to [Chinese President] Xi and Macron asked for a billion masks, and Xi said, 'We'll give them to you if you implement 5G with Huawei,'" Green said. "That's who China is, and it's time the world wake up and recognize it."

China leads the world in the area of 5G technology and would like to expand that dominance by establishing its networks in other countries. Using Huawei networks carries significant national security risks, however, said Attorney General William Barr.

"If China establishes sole dominance over 5G, it will be able to dominate the opportunities arising from a stunning range of emerging technologies that will be dependent on, and interwoven with, the 5G platform," Barr said, according to the Daily Wire. "From a national security standpoint, if the Industrial Internet becomes dependent on Chinese technology, China would have the ability to shut countries off from technology and equipment upon which their consumers and industry depend. The power the United States has today to use economic sanctions would pale by comparison to the unprecedented economic leverage we would be surrendering into the hands of China."

Some hospitals in the U.S. are facing shortages of personal protective equipment and ventilators, and some of that need is being met by China. USA Today reported that in February, before the coronavirus crisis exploded in the U.S., exports of personal protective equipment and ventilators to China increased dramatically.

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