Huawei Seeks to Win Over 5G Security
U.S. officials have effectively
banned Chinese telecom titan Huawei from building next-generation 5G
mobile networks in the United States and are warning other countries
about the company's national security risks.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that
bars American companies from using telecommunications equipment that is
made by companies that pose a national security risk. The order, which
declares a national emergency, is the first step toward formalizing a
ban on doing business with Huawei.
For its part, however, Huawei has shown no signs of backing down and has
been making extraordinary pledges to win over its critics and dispel
allegations that it is a security threat. The company says it will quit
its business if forced to spy on its customers and now its company
chairman Liang Hua has offered to sign "no spy" agreements as well.
Speaking through an interpreter during a visit to London, Liang said
Huawei is willing "to commit ourselves to making our equipment meet the
no-spy, no-backdoors standard."
What does Huawei hand over?
It is unclear what Liang means by "no-spy, no-backdoors" since Huawei,
like all technology companies, requires users to sign agreements
acknowledging that the company may share their personal information if
required by local authorities.
Most technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, disclose these
government information requests in regular public reports. The companies
explain when they comply with the government requests and when they
challenge them in court.
There is no information about what data Huawei hands over to Beijing
authorities. If Chinese officials determine a matter involves "state
secrets" or a criminal investigation, officials can legally justify
intercepting any communication. Critics say Beijing defines "state
secrets" so loosely that it can cover virtually anything.
In his comments to reporters, Liang says Huawei does not act on behalf
of China's government in any international market. According to Reuters,
he also denies that China's laws require companies to "collect foreign
intelligence for the government or plant back doors for the government."
Adding that Huawei is also committed to following the laws and
regulations of every country where it does business.
Despite the criticism, Huawei is doing lots of business. The company
says it has signed 40 contracts to build 5G networks, more than 20 of
which are in Europe. It has shipped 70,000 base stations for
installation, all to locations outside of China. Base stations are a key
component of the infrastructure that is needed to build up the new
Huawei spokesperson Joe Kelly says that maintaining the trust of its
customers is key to the company's continued success.
"Today, with 4 billion people around the world (using our products), at
the scale at which we operate, if we were installing back doors and
taking data, our carriers would be aware, they would see it for
themselves and then they would stop doing business with us," he said.
In the 5G debate, Huawei has voiced its willingness to stake the
company's continued success on its commitment to security.
Company founder Ren Zhengfei has said that Huawei has never been asked
to spy by any country and that the business would be shut down if it was
forced to engage in spying.
Joe Kelly repeated that pledge when VOA paid a recent visit to company
"He would close the business down rather than compromise the security
and safety of any customers' data," Kelly said.
In President Xi Jinping's China, however, critics find such promises
hard to believe. Since coming to power, Xi has stressed the party's
dominance over all aspects of society. Since coming to power there have
been numerous examples of how Xi has no qualms in using the
authoritarian country's internal security apparatus and technology to
silence any who would criticize or challenge him, including influential
businessmen just for taking issue with his policies.
U.S. officials have suggested that if countries choose to trust Huawei
for their 5G network, Washington may reassess sharing information with
The executive order that was signed by Trump on Wednesday not only paves
the way for a formal ban on Huawei from building networks in the United
States. According to the Commerce Department, Huawei and 70 other
affiliates will be added to what is called an "Entity List," which will
make it more difficult for the company and other entities to buy parts
and components from U.S. businesses.
From Chinese tech start-up to global power
Ren Zhengfei, a former military engineer, founded Huawei in 1987 with
five other investors in Shenzhen, with a little more than $5,000. Over
the past five years, it has invested $60 billion in research and
development, and that number is expected to continue to grow.
The company's massive research and development campus in Dongguan, an
industrial city north of Shenzhen, is a stunning visual example of the
company's rags to riches story.
The campus is modeled on a dozen European cities and even has its own
Last year, Huawei made more than $100 billion in revenues, and says it
continued to grow in the first quarter of this year even as Washington
tried to block it from markets globally.
For as much success as the company has had, the future looks even
brighter with the promise of 5G technology.
Downside of 5G
5G will link people, homes, industry, cars and cities, offering
connectivity that will create new jobs and business opportunities. With
that will also come more ways that networks, data and security can be
The rollout of 3G and 4G mobile networks powered a generation of
technology companies, and 5G is expected to be an even greater leap.
now all types of human activities are moving online and after 5G comes
what is even more worrisome than the commercial applications and sharing
of personal information that will come with it, is that ubiquitously
everything will be online," said Karl Li, an electric engineering
professor at Taiwan's National Cheng Kung University. Li was also the
former head of cybersecurity at the National Center of High-Performance
Li said that while it may seem that the debate over Huawei is just about
economic benefits and information security, it is much more than that.
"It is also an issue of national competition, it's also an issue of
national security," he said. "A national security issue that has an
implication on international relations as well."
He adds that if all of the infrastructure and services for 5G networks
were controlled by Huawei, the company would not only have complete
access to any personal data, but also could instantly paralyze all kinds
of systems and operations in a country.