The United States is considering blocking a submarine cable project to Hong Kong


The very sensitive subject of submarine cables is clearly a new point of contention between the United States and China. Last Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal said US officials were seeking to block a submarine cable project. This is the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) cable, funded by Google, Facebook, and a Chinese partner. It is nearly 13,000 kilometers long, linking the west coast of Uncle Sam's country via Los Angeles to Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines.

According to the American business daily, "The Ministry of Justice (…) has strongly opposed this project because of concerns raised by its Beijing-based Chinese investor Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group, and the link that the cable could provide with Hong Kong ". The United States is concerned about the proximity of this company to the Chinese government, and possible measures in Beijing to exploit or cut the Internet traffic of this cable. By waving this risk for national security, Washington could in fine refuse to grant the license necessary for the commissioning of this infrastructure. If the United States had to veto, it would be a big blow for the project. Knowing that the laying of this cable, whose cost is around $ 300 million, at the bottom of the Pacific is almost over.

Electric context between Beijing and Washington

This concern of the United States vis-à-vis the PLCN cable comes in an already electrical context between Beijing and Washington. The two countries are engaged today in a commercial and technological war. And the mistrust between the two superpowers is at the highest. In this standoff, the strategic sector of telecoms crystallizes tensions. The United States has notably banned Huawei, the Chinese giant of telecom equipment and smartphones, to participate in the deployment of 5G. Uncle Sam's country accuses Huawei of espionage on behalf of Beijing, which the Chinese group has always refuted. This summer, Donald Trump went further: he signed a decree to prevent Huawei from providing US technologies.

Still, the United States has not waited for the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House to be wary of China in the ultra-sensitive sector of submarine cables. In 2013, under the leadership of Barack Obama, the US administration overturned a transatlantic Huawei cable project linking New York to London. At that time, Washington was already worried that Beijing would use the OEM's facilities as a Trojan horse to spy on communications.

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