Lisa Keim

The People’s Republic of China has always been a threat to national security. Public interest in protecting the U.S. against the Chinese Communist Party’s interference in everything from our elections and data security to the privacy of our daily lives has become urgent.

We’ve seen the headlines warning us over the years. Chinese tech manufacturers such as Huawei and ZTE and software developers like Bytedance/TikTok use their products and platforms to collect Americans’ data. Through these consumer companies, China’s state-run national intelligence apparatus is targeting the intellectual property of corporations, Americans’ confidential information and government data at every level, from federal agencies down to your local town hall.

And according to Chinese law, these companies have no choice.

In 2017, Chinese lawmakers — if they can be called that — passed the National Intelligence Law, a sweeping measure that compels all companies registered or operating in China to hand over any requested data to the CCP’s intelligence ministries. They also made the law apply extraterritorially, which means a Chinese company operating overseas must also provide the information.

Cybersecurity is serious business at the federal level, but states are left to determine their own standards to manage the risk of theft or destruction of information. Recognizing that risk, Maine’s Office of Information Technology banned TikTok in February from all state-issued or personal mobile devices connected to state equipment and systems.

This Maine IT policy says that our state must keep pace with rapidly evolving national security risks to infrastructure, “including the sensitive and confidential information that we are entrusted to protect for our citizens.” However, this one action doesn’t go far enough — Chinese technology used anywhere within Maine’s government may give the CCP access to our private information.


Unfortunately, Maine is quite vulnerable on that front.

ThinkPad laptops, manufactured by the Chinese company Lenovo after it bought IBM’s personal computing division in 2005, are used throughout state government, including the Legislature. According to Maine Open Checkbook, the state spent $5.35 million on Lenovo technology between 2015 and 2023. This is extremely concerning.

Lenovo equipment, along with Apex Technology’s Lexmark products, are banned by the U.S. military and intelligence agencies due to Chinese government connections. Through Maine’s Lenovo technology, the CCP can access personal information held by our courts, police, secretary of state and education departments, and children and family services or other social service providers and agencies — all depending upon where it is used.

Unlike other states, Maine does not disclose where purchased technology is being used. While it’s unclear which specific agencies are using Lenovo products, what is clear is that sensitive and confidential information held by Maine’s government is vulnerable to Chinese intrusion.

It’s anyone’s guess whether that has happened here in Maine. However, the American cybersecurity firm Mandiant reported in March 2022 that at least six state governments had been hacked by APT41, a group linked to the Chinese government. The Justice Department indicted five members of that group in 2020 for hacking more than 100 U.S. companies.

That’s why I have sponsored LD 877. This bill seeks to prohibit state contracts with any company owned or operated by the government of China and forbid the purchase of any technology or equipment from Chinese companies.


Some states have already taken steps to protect their data. With this measure, Maine can join the wave of 11 others currently taking action to ban the purchase and deployment of Chinese technology by state agencies. Georgia and Florida recently removed Chinese information and communications technology systems from state government contracts.

Our greatest foreign adversary controls large technology companies whose devices are used throughout our state government. Maine is already years behind in addressing this reality; now is the time for us to take action.

The duty to be vigilant and pass protective measures for the good of Maine’s people is ours.

Sen. Lisa Keim is the assistant Republican leader and Senate Republican lead on the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee. She represents District 19, which includes communities in Oxford and Franklin counties.

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