Authorities in Taiwan are drafting a list of Chinese technology companies that could present security concerns for the government, in the wake of a series of measures excluding Huawei from bidding on the next generation of 5G mobile network infrastructure.
The list will seek to limit the use of Chinese-manufactured telecoms equipment by government departments and institutions that could post a security threat, the Nikkei Asian Review cited Taiwan's cybersecurity chief Jyan Hong-wei as saying.
"We will likely complete and publish a list of Chinese companies that could pose security threats by the end of March, and update the list from time to time," Jyan said. "In that case, all government departments, organizations and government-controlled enterprises could have a clear idea when they are buying new tools."
Top candidates for the democratic island's government blacklist are Huawei, ZTE, as well as Dahua Technology and Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, both of which make surveillance cameras and equipment, the report said.
Computer-maker Lenovo may also appear on the list of companies that government agencies and state-controlled companies will have to avoid, it said.
The move comes after U.S. cybersecurity company FireEye said Beijing likely targeted the democratic island to influence last November's elections in favor of its preferred candidates.
However, the list will be made available to the private sector for advisory purposes, to help them make procurement decisions, Jyan said. Taiwan's cabinet, the Executive Yuan, will also release guidelines on the use of electronic devices by government personnel, the report said.
Any bans could take in a large proportion of Taiwan's economy via state-owned utilities and telecoms giants, government-funded medical facilities and research institutions.
The island's flag-carrier China Airlines will also be on the distribution list, Nikkei Asian Review reported.
'Taiwan should be no exception'
Taiwan premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters on Thursday that the island needs to focus on national security.
"Every country in the world is fighting for its national security, and Taiwan should be no exception," Su said. "We also know that that we can mitigate threats to national security that come from the ... use of telecommunications systems."
"That's why the government is doing everything it should be doing to ensure that there are no leaks ... and we call on all Taiwanese to be on a state of alert: security should be everything," he said. "Without national security, we have nothing."
Kolas Yotaka, spokeswoman for the Executive Yuan, said the move wasn't simply about a ban on Chinese companies, or about targeting Huawei, however.
"Actually we don't want to ban Chinese companies from Taiwan, but I have to emphasize one more time that there can be no grey areas when it comes to national security," Yotaka said.
"We also want to remind all departments and agencies under this government that they must take national security considerations into account when procuring hardware or software," she said.
Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je said the move could be linked to the current Sino-U.S. trade war. "This is a tough one," Ko said. "But all we have to do is go along with the policy, once the government has made up its mind what it should be."
Computer networks expert of Ying-Dar Lin, of Taiwan's state-run Chiao-Tung University, said the island's 23 million residents aren't worried enough about using Huawei equipment, and that key institutions on the island are under constant cyber attack from inside China.
"China's cyber army is desperate to hack certain figures in government and in high-technology," Lin told RFA. "One group holds political secrets, and the other group holds industrial secrets."
"Both groups are under fierce attack on a daily basis, in a silent war in which no bullets fly," he said.
Huawei government links clear
Lin said there is no question that Huawei is closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party regime, despite its protestations that it is a private enterprise.
"There is no way that Huawei doesn't do what the Chinese government tells it to do," he said. "Ever since the passage of the National Security Law ... they could even be criminally prosecuted if they don't do as they're told."
Last week, Taiwan held live-fire military exercises off its coast amid concerns -- fueled by the publication of a Pentagon military analysis in the U.S. --that Beijing could move to annex the island, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.
The drills after Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen rejected calls from President Xi for the democratic island to move towards "unification" with the People's Republic, saying its people have no wish to give up their sovereignty.
In a Jan. 2 "Letter to our Taiwan compatriots," Xi was insistent that China must be "unified."
Xi made scant reference to public opinion among the 23 million inhabitants of Taiwan, and said that China would make no promises not to use military force to take the island.
But a recent opinion poll found that more than 80 percent of Taiwanese would reject Xi's offer to rule the island via the "one country, two systems" model used for the former colonies of Hong Kong and Macau.
Taiwan was ruled as a Japanese colony in the 50 years prior to the end of World War II, but was handed back to the 1911 Republic of China under the Kuomintang (KMT) government as part of Tokyo's post-war reparation deal.
The island began a transition to democracy following the death of Chiang Kai-shek's son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.
Reported by Hwang Chun-mei for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.