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CWA # 123, 31 May 2019

Global Politics
The Huawei Controversy: Five things you need to know

  Abigail Miriam Fernandez

Abigail is part of the ISSSP at NIAS, Bangalore and is currently pursuing her Master from the Department of International Studies, Stella Maris College, Chennai. She can be contacted at fernandezabigail123@gmail.com

 

What is Huawei?

Founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former People’s Liberation Army officer. Huawei is the world’s top global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider. The private company had grown with over $100 billion in revenue and 180,000 employees globally.

 

What is the controversy?

The controversy of Huawei in the United States dates back to 2003 when networking firm Cisco accused them of intellectual property theft and since then Huawei has gone on to face stealing charges from a number of companies. In 2017, after President Donal Trump came to power in the US, there has been a harder and more serious action taken against Huawei. Trump gave an executive order on May 15, 2019, to ban Huawei from accessing US supply chains on the long-held notion that Huawei acts on behalf of the Chinese government, undermining US national security and posing possible cybersecurity and privacy risks for American customers. Since this order, Google has pulled Huawei’s Android license causing backlash to the company.

This controversy has also occurred amid the escalating trade war between the US and China, the US enacted a 90-day partial lift from the ban, however, due to the already existing trade tensions the US and China imposed threatening tariffs on each other and other organizations refused to do business with Huawei.

The founder of Huawei has stated that the US has underestimated their strength to overcome this issue, he also went on to say that they have been preparing for this situation and thus was fully prepared to face the ban on certain components. Ren’s defensive statement to the issue comes from a place of hitting back at the US. After the US partially lifted the ban for a period of 90 days, giving the company some space to work Ren confidently said that this did not impact them. When asked how long Huawei face difficulties, Ren said that this question should be asked to Trump and not him.

 

Who is apprehensive and who is not?

US intelligence service believes the company is backed by the Chinese military because of the military background of Mr. Ren, they believe that their equipment might be used to provide Beijing with sensitive information. Trump has stated Huawei is very dangerous from a military and security point. The US is also apprehensive about the Chinese National Intelligence Law passed in 2017 that makes companies support and collaborate on national intelligence work. The US has warned its allies about the risk of using Huawei and as a result, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have all blocked domestic firms from using Huawei’s technology.

British intelligence agencies have taken a cautious step to Huawei by banning the supply of core parts, thus not a complete ban. Jeremy Fleming, the director of spy agency GCHQ, argued that the UK needs to comprehend the various opportunities and threats posed by Chinese technology.

The former EU trade commissioner and president of the Great Britain Centre said that the UK and rest of Europe should promote dialogue with China instead of them blindly following the anti- China claims of Trump.

French President Emmanuel Macron also spoke out saying that his objective is not to ban the company but to ensure that the national security and sovereignty of his country is protected.

 

The truth about the allegations

The allegations made against Huawei are that it is state-sponsored, they engage in espionage and it undermines brands like Ericsson and Apple. The US claims to have proof of its allegation none of which have been made public. Due to China’s domestic policies, it also makes it difficult to prove if the company is actually working for the Chinese government. The company has been accused on the various ground not just by the US but by UK and Australia as well, however, none of them has brought out any substantial evidence to prove that Huawei has connected with the Chinese government. When it comes to the challenges it poses to other brands, this holds true because Huawei products pose serious competition to brands like Apple and Ericsson.

 

The 5G angle

The fifth generation of wireless mobile technology will allow faster downloads, wider coverage, and stable internet access. The promises of 5G are many so are the concerns, with data transfer happening at higher speed and more industries depending on it the risk of cyber-attacks increases, it creates space for backdoor access allowing providers to penetrate into systems to gain confidential information. China has taken the lead in 5G networks, they have made a huge investment in this area. Huawei has already begun marketing this technology at a much cheaper price than their competitors, however, they have faced resistance because of the allegations that they are linked to the Chinese government.

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