By Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA)
& Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
For more than 15 years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed an elaborate espionage campaign to gather insight on American businesses, strategic assets, and supply-chain weak links. The goal: to gain a competitive foothold it can leverage against the United States and our allies.
As part of that campaign, China’s Ministry of Transportation funds and controls Logink, a free shipping and logistics platform that collects real-time data from users at ports around the world.
Starting as a regional program in China in 2007, Logink has exploded in popularity in recent years. The platform is now in use at more than 20 ports worldwide. The technology allows Beijing to track the cargo manifests and transit routes not only of U.S. commercial vessels, but also of our military’s logistics. This is a recipe for disaster.
In the commercial space, Logink could provide Chinese companies unprecedented insight into their competitors’ business, allowing China to undercut competition and strengthen its position in the global marketplace.
And while unfair business practices are concerning enough, Logink’s threat to U.S. national security is even greater.
Imagine if the Chinese government knew where the U.S. shipped new weapons systems, or if the PLA Navy knew exactly when U.S. military logistics vessels shipped out and returned home. To avoid increased surveillance, U.S. ships might have to keep away from certain ports entirely.
In November, we wrote to President Biden asking him to clarify his plans to counter the use of Logink. He never responded. The last National Defense Authorization Act included language requiring the administration to report to Congress.
By law, the administration has until June to issue that report, but Congress shouldn’t wait that long. We’re introducing the Securing Maritime Data from Communist China Act to protect the U.S. now.
Our bill will prevent the Department of Defense from entering contracts with any entity that uses Logink. This will take effect after two years, giving the administration sufficient time to negotiate with allies, and giving the military time to develop alternative practices and protocols.
It also requires the president to ensure any major international agreement, such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), will stop the platform’s proliferation through U.S. industries, as well as those of our partners.
While the U.S. has taken some good first steps to counter the CCP’s data-collection campaign in recent years, we have a lot of work to do. In 2019, the government took action to ban CCP-backed telecom company Huawei from distributing products in the U.S. Just this month, the Pentagon learned of Chinese-made cranes operating in ports nationwide that report shipping data to the CCP.
In addition, Congress also is considering legislation to implement a full statutory ban on the TikTok social media app, whose powerful tracking algorithms, and connection to the CPP make it a grave threat to American security and privacy. It is well known that TikTok not only gathers users’ personal information, but also gives the CCP access to users’ files, text messages, biometric data, and even their keystrokes.
We must stop the CCP’s onslaught on our personal privacy and national security. Ending Logink’s proliferation is the next step to ending China’s espionage campaign.