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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As nationalism rises around the world, globally minded tech companies are finding their businesses increasingly hemmed in by association with their home countries.

The big picture: The bonds of international trade that for decades were viewed as a key driver of economic growth are instead coming to be seen as national security risks — by the U.S. as well as many of its trading partners.

Driving the news:

  • The U.S. has long raised questions about Chinese companies, especially Huawei and ZTE, over espionage risks. Objections over Huawei, in particular, have increased, with the U.S. bringing criminal charges against both the company and top executives.
  • National security concerns have also surfaced over U.S. companies acquired by Chinese entities, such as gay dating site Grindr.
  • Russia's Kaspersky Lab is trying to overturn a ban on federal purchases of its software in the U.S.
  • U.S. companies can face similar concerns abroad, especially in Europe, where both security and antitrust concerns have been raised about U.S. tech companies.

Between the lines: U.S. policymakers often argue that fragile laws in countries like China and Russia won't protect companies' customers, data, and intellectual property from demands made by authoritarian governments — and there's plenty of evidence and examples to support that view.

Yes, but:

  • The Snowden revelations about NSA surveillance showed how closely U.S. tech firms work with their own government.
  • Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal showed how poorly some U.S. firms protect their users' data.
  • That has left American companies facing an uphill battle to claim high ground in this realm.

Context: Judging companies on where they're based and what motives they might have beyond commercial interests is part of a larger shift in thinking, says Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

  • "We went through about a 20-year idealistic period where the 'One Worlders' believed everything would be this one giant global market with massive free trade and everything will be great," Atkinson said. "It turns out that's a myth. Really what we have now are competing blocs."

What they're saying:

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told Axios in a statement that Chinese companies should be viewed as agents of the state.
"In China, companies like Huawei and Hikvision willingly advance the authoritarian regime’s goals, yet here in America, we can't even get Apple to crack open an iPhone for the FBI to investigate a terrorist attack."
— Marco Rubio
  • In a Washington Post op-ed, Sens. John Cornyn and Tom Cotton made the case for keeping China out of 5G networks in Europe.
  • Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, said the controversies are about more than just the location of a company's headquarters.
"I don't think it's that companies should be viewed based on their home countries, but rather that ... those companies' relationships with the state and the laws that govern them are important to understand and — in the case of Kaspersky, Huawei and ZTE — have direct implications for national security."
— Laura Rosenberger

Go deeper

Updated 13 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

15 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.