TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Due to fears of potential Communist Party interception, the U.S. government has asked allies to avoid using equipment manufactured by Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday (Nov. 22) that the U.S. has already briefed counterparts and telecom executives in friendly countries where Huawei equipment is in wide use, and spoken with delegates about potential cybersecurity risks.
Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecom and internet gear, taking in an overall revenue of US$92.55 billion in 2017. It has deployed its products to 170 countries.
Huawei has worked with other businesses in numerous countries around the world to trial and establish 5G networks including New Zealand, Canada, the UK and Germany.
Western powers have, for a while, been fearful of potential Chinese interception via networks operators and mobile gear deployed abroad. China Telecom’s attempt to build its own network in the U.S. was denied by the Trump administration in July due to concerns about “increased risks to U.S. law enforcement and national security interests.” Chinese state-owned China Mobile Communications Group is the company’s major shareholder.
Huawei indicates on its official website that it is an independent, private company in which the Chinese government has no stake and over which it exerts no control. There are certain facts about the business, however, which have aroused suspicion. For example, the company was founded in 1987 by a former People’s Liberation Army engineer, which could indicate hidden ties. The Chinese government has also been known to confer special benefits to companies it deems close in terms of antitrust laws, intellectual property and foreign investment—all of which Huawei has benefitted from.
It was discovered in June that Huawei and other Chinese technology corporations including OPPO, Lenovo and TCL Corp were granted unsolicited access to Facebook user data by the social media giant for unconfirmed purposes in an agreement that dates back to 2010. Despite Facebook’s denial, U.S. Congress members warned that users and their friends could have had personal data accessed without explicit consent.
Huawei has already been banned from providing 5G wireless technology in Australia due to national security concerns. Members of Germany’s interior and foreign ministries are also urging the government to consider barring mobile operators procuring Chinese-manufactured equipment due to Chinese National Intelligence Law, which requires citizens and private organizations to assist the state in intelligence matters. Ministers warn this could incite backdoor espionage activity.
The Washington Street Journal reports the U.S. is considered providing financial aid for telecom operations to countries that ban the use of Chinese telecom gear. It is particularly concerned about countries that host U.S. military bases, including Italy, Germany and Japan.