Newsline , Society

Consumers Beware of Gifts That Are Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Posted on Friday, December 18, 2020
by Outside Contributor

Electronics are at the top of the holiday shopping list for many Americans as families make upgrades to work and learn from home in the wake of COVID-19. They should be careful that seemingly familiar brands are not, in fact, a wolf in sheep’s clothing that could compromise their personal information.

Spending on consumer technology like computers, smartphones and support services is expected to top $135 billion in the fourth quarter, a 10 percent increase over last year. Most consumers will instinctively steer toward well-known names. More than seven in 10 Americans consider only brands they know — or think they know, anyway — when purchasing electronics.

As a result, many people could be putting a Trojan Horse under the tree this year without even knowing it. Popular products that have long been thought of as American-made, including Motorola and IBM, are now owned by the Chinese government. That means consumers who think they are buying from U.S. companies may actually be supporting America’s top adversary — and compromising their personal data in the process. Much of the revenue from these products goes to China’s government coffers, which is then invested in military projects directed against the United States.

Consider the companies above. Lenovo’s Chromebook has become a popular computer for children learning remotely. The manufacturer, a company backed by the Chinese government, bought up IBM’s laptop division. The U.S. Department of Commerce restricted Lenovo distribution after reports that the owner-company sourced materials from labor camps of Uyghur Muslims. Last year the Department of Defense issued a warning that the company’s hardware could pose a cyber-espionage risk.

Motorola, a well-known smartphone maker, is owned by a Chinese state-sponsored company. While the brand connotes a U.S. image, there is little difference between Motorola’s phones and those made by Huawei, another of China’s state-operated companies that has been blacklisted by the U.S. government because of its ties to the country’s military.

Other examples include Riot Games, now owned by Chinese holding company Tencent and Ingram Micro, which distributes Apple’s iPhone and Cisco network equipment and is now owned by China’s HNA Group.

China’s ambition to control the market for modern technologies is well known. In an attempt to build its capabilities and market share, the Chinese government — through quasi state-operated companies — has quietly bought its way into the U.S. market. This power grab has happened by takeovers of American companies and the theft of U.S. technology.

For its part, the U.S. government has begun to crack down on bad actors. In recent years, it has added more than 320 suspect Chinese companies, like Huawei, to its “Entity List,” which prevents American companies from engaging in trade with those named. But there are loopholes that need to be closed. That will require greater restrictions on China’s state-operated companies in the immediate-term, and expanding rules that prevent foreign companies from buying control of American businesses. It is also important that consumers protect themselves by sharing information about companies that might paint themselves as proudly American, but, in reality, are sneaking in the backdoor.

Fortunately, Americans have more choices when it comes to affordable, high-quality electronics, and companies are diversifying away from China for safety and security reasons. For the integrity of our personal data, and the continued success of our technology industry, it is critical that we buy products that are truly American-made — and not wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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3 years ago

China’s growing presence in the consumer electronic sector has been going on since Bill Clinton ushered China into the WTO decades ago. You state “For its part, the U.S. government has begun to crack down on bad actors. In recent years, it has added more than 320 suspect Chinese companies, like Huawei, to its “Entity List,” which prevents American companies from engaging in trade with those named.” The vast majority of that crack down occurred over the last four years under pressure from President Trump. It will be extremely interesting to see how much of that crack down remains after the fraudulent and pro-China administration of Biden / Harris takes over. My personal bet is unfortunately NOT MUCH will remain. Virtually every nomination to his administration that Biden has publicly announced to date is a big advocate of both China and a return to “business as usual”. Elections, even fraudulent ones, have very real consequences.

I fully agree with the premise of this article that American consumers do a bit more research, other then simply shopping for the lowest cost item, as what you are really buying and which country’s economy you are really supporting with your dollars. Otherwise, there may come a time in the not too distant future when your only option will be buy China’s goods, as all other options will have vanished. Just a thought for those out there that care about what kind of future you’re leaving to your kids and grandkids.

John S.
John S.
3 years ago

It is truly disgusting how China’s government has treated these Muslims. This is not what we strive for in America.

Minnesota, for example, has a large Muslim community. They are wonderful people, they contribute to the economy and culture, and they have even sent Ilhan Omar to the House of Representatives, the first Muslim woman to be a Congressperson. Imagine that ever happening in China.

3 years ago

When purchasing anything, even garlic (most of those sleeved bulbs were grown in China, our grocer admitted), check the labels. Some will say “Made or grown in U.S.A.”, others will indicate “assembled in the U.S.A. from parts imported from China”, and some claim to be “distributed” by American companies, but what does that really mean?

I guess we need more truth in labeling. When it comes to electronics, we should be informed if little spies (recording video and voice) are being transplanted to our living rooms and bedrooms.

3 years ago

Isn’t America “wonderful”? … The Land of Opportunity! … For whom? … For the “domineering” Chinese? … Or the “world domineering” Muslim religion? … Or let’s open our borders for millions of more uneducated Hispanics? Pretty soon we can declare that Spanish is now our “Official” language! … America is being destroyed from within and this is being led by the Progressively Communist Democratic Party! … Are American’s deaf, dumb and blind? … Certainly looks like it!

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