Huawei, the massive, world-leading Chinese telecommunication and consumer electronic company, is not on good terms with America.
The company, well-known for its smartphones, hasn’t taken so kindly to the criticism and suspicion coming from American quarters. The company not only claims that it is not a security threat but also that its American critics have not provided any evidence that it is working inappropriately with the Chinese government or that it would do so in the future.
But the American government remains resolute that Huawei represents a national security risk, with the fear being really of the Chinese government. The issue boils down to fear that Huawei technology is open to exploitation by the Chinese government for espionage, and therefore presents a severe national risk, especially as America builds out its next-generation 5G network. It is not so much Huawei’s smartphones that are the concern as opposed to their other major stream of revenue: network equipment. Huawei is currently the biggest seller of this equipment and they reach over three billion people globally. It is obviously a massive market to have a stake in because we live in a day and age where billions are connected by networks. Our phones are designed to send signals to nearby towers using radio waves. Voice and data are passed over an internal network run by a phone company that connects a user to other phone users and to the wider internet. This is indeed powerful technology, and 5G is the latest network technology in development. No surprises here that Huawei is a leading force in this area.
But with new development comes new security risks, and America is not willing to allow China to have control of this connectivity. As it stands Huawei already has a strong presence in many areas within America, especially in rural areas where internet connection and technology are important. A suspected reason for Huawei’s position over and above its competitors in such areas is that the company is subsidized by the Chinese government, although Huawei strongly denies this. The role of the Chinese government is unclear for now, but it is very clear that China is a country where loyalty to the state is obligatory. Loyalty is enshrined in China’s intelligence law, article 7, which states that “Any organization or citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with the state intelligence work.” This means that if the Chinese government wanted Huawei to hand over data, they would have no choice but to do so. The problem is that in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, such information could become a weapon to use. Potentially, this could take form in Huawei leaving backdoor vulnerabilities in its networks to provide the Chinese government with the opportunity to spy on its competitors and enemies if that’s what they wanted. In response to these suspicions Huawei shared its code, but no-one, including Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, has found anything untoward.
However, the American government remains suspicious and unwilling to allow China to take the reins of the technology market and thus prove a threat to their dominance. American officials have come down hard on the company by issuing measures effectively blacklisting it. Since May American companies have not been allowed to supply Huawei with components, and have restated domestic networks from using its equipment.
Japan and Australia have too blocked Huawei from providing hardware for next-generation mobile networks.