Huawei and US National Security: Thoughts

It is rare for me to comment about national security, and much less about the national security of a foreign country, in this case, the US. The US has not only banned Huawei from selling equipment in the US, but has also put Huawei and related companies on a list of national security bans, where US companies cannot sell of their technology to these banned companies. Foreign companies using US technology must also comply. I’ll try to talk about Huawei’s means, motive, opportunity.

Means: Huawei, Second largest Smartphone company in the world
Huawei is globally large, only second to Samsung in sales for smartphones. They also sell network infrastructure equipment less expensively than other manufacturers such as Nokia and Ericsson. This has allowed them to expand greatly not only in Western countries but also in the Third World, where price is critical.

While Huawei is no doubt successful in business, they may have financial assistance from the Chinese government CCP. This is pretty common in China and should not be discounted. Of course this cannot be proven, as China and Huawei are not transparent in their relationships. On the contrary, there is no doubt that Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei is a current CCP member, and ex-member of the People’s liberation Army PLA. Huawei is one of China’s the darling Chinese companies. If there was any Chinese company that would receive assistance to grow and dominate global IT, it would be Huawei.

Huawei has also participated in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, along with state-controlled China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation CEIEC, supplying Ecuador with their surveillance system, ECU-911.

Ecuador’s system, called ECU-911, was largely made by two Chinese companies, the state-controlled C.E.I.E.C. and Huawei.

Replicas of the network have been sold to Venezuela, Bolivia and Angola, according to government announcements and Chinese state media.

Clearly Huawei has the technical means to harm a nation-state.

Motive: Huawei, Darling of China’s Political and IT Elite
Huawei is a proud Chinese company. Based in China, it is, of course, required to follow Chinese law. This means that Huawei and all Chinese workers must pledge alliance to the CCP, as stated by Xi Jinping, 2017 Oct 18 at the 19th Communist Party Congress (CPC).

Adhere to the party’s leadership over all work.
The party, government, and the people’s studies, the East, the West, the Middle East, the Middle East, the party is leading everything. We must strengthen political awareness, overall awareness, core awareness, and sense of conformity, consciously safeguard the party’s central authority and centralize unified leadership, and consciously maintain a high degree of unity with the Party Central Committee in ideological and political actions, improve the system and mechanism of adhering to the party’s leadership, and adhere to stability. In the overall tone of the work, we will promote the overall layout of the “five in one”, coordinate and promote the “four comprehensive” strategic layout, improve the party’s ability to direction, plan the overall situation, set policies, and promote reform, and ensure that the party always takes over. Global, coordination of all parties. source

All Chinese companies over 50 people are required by Chinese law to have CCP members on its board. In Huawei’s case they have their chairman. There is no doubt that, from the start, Huawei has significant CCP input and influence. If they did not Huawei would cease to exist in China, and would not be able to grow in size.

Huawei must also follow the Chinese National Intelligence law, 2018

Article 7: An organization or citizen shall support, assist in and cooperate in national intelligence work in accordance with the law and keep confidential the national intelligence work that it or he knows.

The state shall protect the individual or organization that has supported, assisted in or cooperated in national intelligence work.

Huawei must also follow China’s National Anti-Espionage Law 2014 Aug 31

Chapter I General Provisions Article 4 Citizens of the People’s Republic of China shall have the obligation to safeguard the security, honour and interests of the State and shall not have acts that endanger the security, honour and interests of the State.

All state organs and armed forces, political parties and various social groups and enterprises and institutions have the obligation to prevent, stop espionage and safeguard national security.

Article 7 The State provides protection to organizations and individuals that support and assist in counter-espionage work, and rewards those who have made significant contributions.

Chapter III Article 22 When the state security organ investigates and understands the situation of espionage and collects relevant evidence, the relevant organizations and individuals shall provide it truthfully and may not refuse.

These laws are non-negotiable in China and have significant implications worldwide. Huawei has a legal duty to follow them.

How important is Huawei to the CCP? When the US started extradition proceedings against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, daughter of chairman Ren Zhengfei, Canada arrested her. She remains on bail in Canada, accused of fraud (illegal in Canada and the US) and selling to Iran, illegal under US law. Relations between Canada and China markedly plunged as a result. China then arrested and incarcerated two innocent Canadians, who still remain in Chinese jail, banned Canadian canola shipments, revoked the import license of Canada’s two largest pork producers. China’s tyrade continues.

These CCP government actions against Canada has been solely due to the extradition request of the Huawei CFO. This is how important Huawei is to the CCP. To deny any such link to the CCP, pleading independence from the Chinese government is preposterous.

Opportunity: Huawei, a Growing Behemoth
Huawei is one of the fastest growing IT companies worldwide. Their equipment is technically excellent, price is less expensive than competitors, and is more than willing to participate in the non-transparent Belt and Road Initiative BRI. Huawei has assisted multiple countries in setting up nationwide surveillance systems.

As Huawei sells network infrastructure equipment as well as being the second most popular worldwide smartphone vendor, they have the end user and network opportunity for access outside of China.

Conclusion: You Decide

China is an autocratic totalitarian country. It is up to the Chinese people and those in power to decide their own destiny. These values are not shared by most Western countries. Other third world and totalitarian countries are sympathetic to China’s views and are more easily swayed. China knows how to talk money and influence, often outside the normal rules of law. This is unlike most Western countries. Huawei clearly follows a similar path and philosophy.

This does not mean that Huawei has done anything wrong, but they certainly have the means, motive and opportunity. Tech hardware and software are such that there can be purposeful “backdoors”, designed to be manipulated for an ulterior purpose. There can also be unintended “backdoors” or flaws in the hardware and software, called vulnerabilities, which will be discovered by someone in the future. Both of these are extremely difficult to discover, much less prove intent. These are difficult to clearly differentiate, and may require software updates in order to block. You cannot look at a piece of hardware or software and decide that it is completely safe or not.

As all hardware and software may have vulnerabilities, sometimes detected years or even decades later, it is really a leap of faith that we trust in hardware and software vendors. The question is do you trust Huawei, a Chinese company with your country’s national security, and your personal privacy?

In the case of Huawei, you need to ask yourself if you trust this Chinese company enough to give them the benefit of the doubt that they will put your best interests first and foremost, not only today but in the future. It is clear that the US and other governments have little faith in Huawei and have banned them from network infrastructure.

2019 May 24 China denounces US’ Mike Pompeo for ‘rumours’ about Huawei links to Beijing

Huawei has repeatedly denied it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services.

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