Asia Briefing: Huawei feeling vindicated over Snowden revelations
In a week in which it unveiled the world’s thinnest smartphone, the Android-based Ascend P6, and as Washington is buzzing over revelations by whistle-blower Edward Snowden about internet surveillance in the United States, Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies must be feeling a certain sense of vindication.
Last year, the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives in Washington released a 52-page report which recommended Huawei be banned from acquiring US assets and from supplying any equipment to telecoms network projects, citing concerns the Chinese government could install malicious hardware or software in US networks.
The Shenzhen-based Huawei is China’s largest information and communications technology solutions provider, and the figures for last year suggest it overtook Ericsson as the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker by sales.
The company has repeatedly denied the claims while increasing transparency in financial disclosures and media events to allay those fears.
The revelations from Snowden give Huawei ammunition in fighting against what it sees as protectionist activity by the US, to argue that US technology groups are just as much a security risk to Beijing as the Chinese equipment provider is to Washington.
The company was founded by Ren Zhengfei in 1987. He had retired from the People’s Liberation Army in 1983. It is partially because of Ren’s military background that Huawei has been dogged by transparency and security concerns.
Company spokesman Roland Sladek admitted that communication was “a journey” and said Huawei was trying to be better and more open.
“The situation in the US is a particular one, where there was no dialogue taking place and no willingness from the US authorities to have dialogue,” Sladek said in an interview with The Irish Times in a Beijing hotel.
“It’s a bit about politics in the US, and a bit about protection. In the UK, where cybersecurity is also an issue – it’s a
global issue – we have a situation where we have to find a win-win situation,” said Sladek.
“In the UK, we were able to put in place a cybersecurity centre with independent experts who received security clearance from the government who looked into Huawei, and we went so far as to open up source code to experts. I don’t believe any of our competitors went as far.
“If you look at today’s telecoms networks, they are interconnected, so it doesn’t make sense to isolate one particular country, such as the US, from places like the UK, Canada and New Zealand, where we have very good business.
“And also in today’s world it’s a global supply chain, so it doesn’t make sense to highlight security issues because a headquarters is based in one country.”
Irish R&D operations
In January, Huawei announced the opening of a new research and development centre spread across two sites in Cork and Dublin. Regarding progress at the Irish R&D operations, Sladek said the plan was ongoing.
“Our medium-term plans in Ireland . . . it is an attractive place of investment because of its known good infrastructure, high level of education and has qualified people to work in high-tech R&D, and hiring will be happening over the next years,” he said.