The Chinese telecommunications manufacturer Huawei faces strong, united international criticism from a plethora of states, raising security concerns over their 5G mobile telecommunications equipment.
Australia, The United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom have all expressed security doubts regarding the equipment being used for espionage.
Countries also fear that private firm Huawei has significant ties to the Chinese government. Huawei has denied the claim, emphasising that the only ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that exist are paying the companies’ taxes.
On Decembers 1st, Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada. Six days later, it became public that Ms Meng was wanted by the US over fraud charges, after allegedly selling American-manufactured equipment to Iran.
The Supreme Court of British Colombia concluded that Ms Meng utilised a subsidiary of Huawei called ‘Skycom’ to evade the sanctions placed on Iran in 2009 and 2014. The Court stated that Ms Meng had not openly said that Skycom was a part of the Huawei firm.
Beijing has strongly condemned the “extremely nasty” arrest, claiming that Ms Meng had not broken the law.
These developments threaten to heighten China-US tensions, as Huawei is one of China’s crucial telecommunications and technology firms. There is danger in the situation turning into a major diplomatic dispute, jeopardising the somewhat improved China-US relations as evidenced by the 90-day trade war truce.
How Have Countries Responded?
GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre has put immense pressure on Huawei to reform and improve its systems. Huawei eventually caved, costing the company an estimated $2 billion. The UK, a key member of the Five Eyes Group, believes Huawei’s equipment contains serious security flaws and reinforces that the company’s history and ties to the Chinese government are of no concern.
The US has enacted a carpet-ban on all Huawei involvement in the construction of 5G mobile networks. The US, in a Congress report, stressed that “Huawei did not fully cooperate with the investigation and was unwilling to explain its relationship with the Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party”.
Australia has banned companies that would have “extrajudicial directions from a foreign government” from constructing 5G infrastructure. However, they did not name Huawei specifically.
New Zealand acted in similar vein, barring a request for mobile carrier Spark to use Huawei equipment for its 5G network.
Germany have not acted yet, however there is a drive from German officials and politicians to take similar steps and exclude Huawei from its 5G network infrastructure. This is in response to the German Interior Ministry’s statement, opposing banning any company from its 5G network.
Reports from Japan suggest a ban is inevitable, but Tokyo has declined to comment, merely highlighting the importance of cyber security in the country.