Huawei and National Security

Huawei is a massive Chinese multinational telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics company. Some basics facts about the company include: 

  • It employs over 170,000 people,
  • It is currently the largest telecommunication manufacturer in the world,
  • It was started in 1987 by an engineer formerly in the People's Liberation Army (PLA), 
  • It invests heavily in R&D, and 
  • Its name can be translated to mean "China is able."

Huawei has been in the news lately because Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer and daughter of the company's founder, was arrested on December 1 in Vancouver as she was switching planes. Canada did this at the request of the United States which is seeking Wanzhou's extradition to face charges of violating economic and financial sanctions on Iran

But the alleged violation of Iranian sanctions is small potatoes compared to the real risk Huawei poses to national security. This mainly revolves around 5G technology.

Without getting technical, 5G is the fifth generation in wireless communication. It is designed to run at a higher frequency than today's 4G technology allowing the network to transmit data much faster. 

5G will be lightning fast. Verizon says that its 5G network will likely be 200 times faster than the 5Mbps speeds many of its users get on 4G LTE. That means 5G speeds will hit 1Gbps, which is currently the fastest speed you can get from Google Fiber. At that rate, you'll be able to download an HD movie in seven seconds. speeds are expected to increase even higher than 1 Gbps as well, as 5G evolves.

The rollout for 5G is expected to come in 2020. From there, it is soon expected to be fully integrated into the wireless communication system in countries around the globe. And here Huawei plays a major role as the world's largest supplier of telecommunication equipment. Huawei edged out Ericsson to become the largest telecommunication provider in Europe. As such, it's products will be deeply embedded in the 5G networks going up there.

National security concerns have nothing to do with how fast movies can be downloaded. Rather it's the rational fear that Huawei-made equipment could be designed with backdoors in them to allow unauthorized access by the communist Chinese government for intelligence gathering and other nefarious purposes.

Huawei has vehemently denied all allegations that it might be involved in intelligence gathering for the Chinese government. The fact is that no company in China is free of government control, especially those in the hi-tech sector. In addition, China's ethical and legal standards are not those of the West. China is a grasping country and will do anything to advance itself in the world. Case in point: China's economic rise owes a great deal of its success in stealing intellectual property and deceit on trade agreements. 

Fortunately, the Trump administration is not as naïve as past administrations. It does not turn a blind eye to trade abuses. This past summer, the president banned Huawei technology from use by the U.S. government and government contractors as part of the larger Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019.  

To underline how credible this national security threat is, even Democrats are worried. Sen. Mark Warner, vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is calling for sanctions on Huawei equipment and is urging Canada to similarly ban its products. And prior to the 2018 midterm elections, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent warnings to campaigns not to use phones or other devices from the Chinese manufacturers ZTE and Huawei, 'even if the price is low or free.' 

The Trump administration has been pressuring Europe to ban Huawei equipment for security reasons. As a result, countries like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic are carefully scrutinizing Huawei equipment as they prepare to accept quotes to build their respective 5G networks starting next year.   

Already it looks like this is having an effect. Britain's telecoms group BT (BT) confirmed that "it would not buy equipment from the Chinese tech company for the core of its next generation wireless network. The company also said it would remove existing Huawei technology from the heart of its 4G network within two years."  And in early December, Japan announced that it is also excluding Huawei and ZTE equipment from its government contracts for fear over cyberattacks and intelligence leaks. 

Apart from security, Europe has other reasons to look askance at Huawei's penetration of its wireless networks. 5G is the future. Europe may be used to being left in the technological dust by the U.S., but to be left behind by China would be too tough a pill to swallow. And that is what will happen if the Continent's critical wireless infrastructure has to rely on a Chinese manufacturer.

It is surreal to think that countries of the West would even consider having a critical part of their communications infrastructure dependent on a company in communist China. And why would they? Because Huawei's equipment is marginally less expensive than that which Western companies produce? To give the devil his due, there is wisdom in Comrade Lenin's observation when he said, "Capitalists will sell us the rope by which we'll hang them."

And where did Huawei get the technological knowhow to advance so far, so fast in the first place? It wasn't homegrown in China. It was obtained by hook or by crook from the West, primarily America. Technology giveaways is another area that the Trump administration is addressing.

The noose is tightening around Huawei (and ZTE). The company's stock is down 55 percent YTD and the exclusion from the West's 5G networks can only dim the company's future prospects. And perhaps more importantly, the point being driven home more than ever to the communist leaders in China is just how dependent their economy is based on goodwill of the West. 

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