By: Brandon Schall, Staff Writer
Since 2018, the United States (U.S.) and China have been at odds over cybersecurity concerns with Huawei. In December 2018, Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer (C.F.O.) Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the United States. Those concerns escalated further when it was reported that Federal prosecutors were pursuing criminal investigation of Huawei Technologies Company for stealing trade secrets from U.S. business partners. Specifically, the criminal investigation involves allegations that Huawei stole robot phone-testing technology from T-Mobile. In January 2019, the Justice Department announced criminal charges against Huawei and its affiliates, accusing them of two indictments: violating intellectual property law and lying about its compliance with U.S. sanctions against Iran. In March, Canada announced it would begin the process to extradite Huawei’s C.F.O., Meng Wanzhous, to the U.S.. Thereafter, Wanzhous announced her suit against Canada and two of its federal agencies, alleging that the authorities detained and interrogated her prior to her arrest.
The U.S. began stepping up their concerns about Huawei being a cybersecurity threat in February, when it was reported that President Donald Trump was considering signing an executive order banning Chinese telecom equipment from U.S. wireless networks from cyber threats. However, later in the month President Trump said, “I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies.” Shortly thereafter, President Trump went further and suggested that it could use the criminal charges against Huawei and their CFO as a bargaining chip with ongoing trade negotiations with China.
Throughout trade negotiations with China, President Trump’s administration pushed Europe to block Huawei out of their 5G wireless markets to stop China from having a potential tool for spying on Europe. However, from the beginning, Europe tried to find middle ground that would allow for a series of midway network security measures that will permit Chinese telecommunication firms a presence in Europe but not full implementation. from 5G backbone sales. However, after the announcement, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany sent a letter to the German government warning that the U.S.-German intelligence sharing would be affected because “The Americans will assume that everything we share with Germans will end up with the Chinese.”
In March, Huawei announced it would sue the U.S. government asserting that Congress violated the Constitution when it barred federal agencies from using its technology. Specifically, Huawei is challenging portions of the U.S. military appropriations act that bars Huawei equipment in 5G networks because it poses a security risk. Huawei argues that the U.S. ban is “based on numerous false, unproven and untested propositions.” However, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has warned that use of Huawei’s equipment could weaken U.S. national security due to the close ties to China’s government. Additionally, the U.S. government has asserted for years that the Chinese government has been linked to state sponsored hacks targeting the U.S. government and businesses. Andy Purdy, Chief Security Officer for Huawei USA, has suggested that the “U.S. officials have not indicated a willingness to engage in conversations with the company to discuss cyber concerns” which has raised tensions.
In late March, Italy and the U.K. began backing away from their earlier stance for a total ban on Huawei. Soon after, the EU nations announced that they would be required to share data on 5G cybersecurity risks from Huawei’s hardware and fix the technical issues by the end of the year. The EU’s decision delivered a blow to the U.S. goal of getting the EU to ban Huawei. Despite the blow to the U.S., there is still hope that NATO will take action on those security concerns with Huawei, which has said, they are continuing to assess the situation. These concerns gained new attention after the U.K. cybersecurity authority slammed the equipment maker in a report because “significant technical issues have been identified in Huawei’s engineering processes, leading to new risks in the U.K. telecommunications networks.”
Policy experts suggest that the banning of Huawei could lead to a U.S.-China Cold War over technology, while others suggest that President Trump is simply using Huawei as a bargaining chip in his desire to achieve a U.S.-China trade agreement.Whether you support the ban on Chinese telecom companies in 5G technology, President Trump is continuing raise concerns in Europe and utilizing the ban during trade negotiations.
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