A statement by US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai could mark the beginning of the end for China Mobile's eight-year effort to crack the American market. Photo: AFP

Washington’s push to erect new barriers to the entry of Chinese companies to the US market continued on Wednesday, as the country’s top telecommunications regulator announced a move to block China Mobile.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said he opposed the Chinese service provider’s application to offer mobile-phone service in the US.

“After reviewing the evidence, it is clear that China Mobile’s application to provide telecom services in the US raises serious national-security and law-enforcement risks. I oppose its application, which would not be in the public interest,” Pai wrote in a Twitter post.

The United States has intensified a campaign in recent years targeting Chinese telecommunications companies. Efforts, which include failed attempts to get European allies to block equipment makers Huawei and ZTE, have focused on potential national-security risks posed by Chinese involvement in the sector.

Both Huawei and ZTE are explicitly banned from government contracts in the US, and severely restricted from other business opportunities because of political pressure on US service providers.

In the case of Huawei’s participation in building fifth-generation wireless networks in Europe, US allies have rejected calls for outright bans, citing lack of evidence that the Chinese firm has engaged, or would, in activity endangering national security.

Huawei insists that it would never risk its commercial interests by handing over data to Beijing, and has pointed to prior instances of US-based firms cooperating with Washington for purposes of espionage.

Against that backdrop, the rejection of China Mobile’s bid to enter the US market is not surprising and reflects a consensus in Washington among policymakers that Chinese firms could be pressured by Beijing to hand over customer data.

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