Biden Removes Chinese Military Tech Company from Blacklist

Chinese tech company Sugon worked on nuclear weapons research, Uyghur surveillance

The Chinese flag / Getty Images
June 10, 2021

President Joe Biden issued an executive order dropping a ban on investment in a Chinese technology company known for its cooperation with the Chinese military and the surveillance of Uyghur Muslims.

Sugon, a Chinese company blacklisted by the Trump administration in November 2020, did not appear on the updated blacklist of Chinese companies announced by the White House this month. The United States had prohibited Americans from investing in Sugon over the company's sale of supercomputers to the Chinese military for nuclear weapons research. The company's cloud computing and facial recognition technology has reportedly been used for the surveillance of Uyghur Muslims.

Michael Sobolik, a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council who researches China issues, told the Washington Free Beacon the Biden order was "strange" due to its omission of Sugon, though it otherwise makes steps in the right direction by extending sanctions on other Chinese tech giants such as Huawei and Hikvision.

"It's strange that the Biden administration removed Sugon from the list," Sobolik said. "This company's resources have supported the CCP's draconian surveillance in Xinjiang—specifically, the Orwellian model of 'predictive policing.' Some members of Congress have also warned that Sugon has also been involved in the PLA's nuclear and hypersonic glide vehicle testing programs. Sugon seems to check both boxes of the EO, which raises questions as to why it's delisted. The administration may have a perfectly reasonable explanation; if so, officials should clarify their decision."

The decision comes amid intensified tech competition between the United States and China. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a massive spending package intended to increase funding for American technological and scientific research, along with several other areas of competition. 

Some Biden administration allies have ties to Chinese technology firms. Biden's nominee for the director of national intelligence's general counsel position admitted in May to doing work for Huawei while employed at one of the Chinese tech powerhouse’s top Washington lobbying firms. A member of the administration's trade transition team managed a Chinese firm tasked with raising funds for Chinese companies listed as banned in the Biden administration's executive order.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.