Huawei: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Smartphone?

Forget James Bond with his cars and gadgets, it’s not him you should be worried about. The tech giant Huawei has become an infamous storm of media controversy, faced with accusations of hacking and spying for the Chinese Government.

Huawei says this is simply a smear campaign by the US government, and the Chinese Communist Party has rigidly defended the company. Things have been heating up ever since Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada last year. She’s also the company’s deputy chairwoman and Chief Financial Officer.

The question remains, is Huawei a tool of the Chinese government, or is the West oppressing it in an attempt to stunt China’s economic growth?

To be honest, Western nations probably want to hold down companies like Huawei. The company has been growing at an immense rate, overtaking Apple in the number of smartphones it’s producing, and owing to companies like it many people predict the Chinese economy will outstrip the US by 2030.

So there’s a power play going on behind the scenes here. The West is obviously interested in keeping the US as a leading economic powerhouse on the world stage. Yet the number of accusations as well as the close links between Huawei and the Chinese government make me certain something is going on.

In 2018 French newspaper Le Monde Afrique reported data had been stolen from the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia every night for 5 years. Most of the telecoms equipment in the facility was provided by Huawei.

In 2014 a Huawei employee was caught trying to steal a robotic arm used in the testing of smartphone products by American companies so he could allegedly give it to his co-workers in China. Although the case was settled, recent discoveries of emails linking the theft with Huawei management have led to the company being charged with the attempted theft of trade secrets.

Not only are there several cases like these coming out now, but also there are strong links between Huawei and the Chinese government.

Huawei is largely a privately held business, which would lead you to believe it should be reasonably separate from the government. But many of its owners have links to the Chinese Communist Party, and now the picture changes drastically.

The company has a Chinese Communist Party committee, and events held by the Communist Party are often used as an opportunity for business leaders to network. There are also reports the former chairwoman Sun Yafang worked in the Ministry of State Security. Equally Huawei has a contract with China’s armed forces, which Ren Zhengfei served in.

Not only this, but Danielle Cave of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has pointed out concerns regarding laws compelling all Chinese businesses to aid the Communist Party in gathering intelligence if requested to do so. Some may call it state sponsored espionage.

In this digital age it’s only natural governments will use these sorts of organisations to spy on potential competitors. I’d bet the Americans are doing it too, and probably plenty of other nations.

Is the West, including our media, targeting Huawei? I wouldn’t be surprised, and for the same reason: competition. But that doesn’t mean the allegations are false. No, I think they’re probably quite accurate. Everyone has a finger in this pie, so I don’t find any of it particularly shocking, and neither should you.


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Jamie Hose

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October 2021
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