Huawei is at last being noticed
Morning Mail has for more than two years been banging the drum of concern about the Chinese telecoms vendor Huawei and its legal position under the Chinese communist government which has a right to any and all data from a Chinese based company. G5 being the company’s latest grab for control of most of the world’s communications. John McDuling writes today in the SMH about this matter and the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer which MM posted yesterday. We have also been naming well known Australians in the employ of Huawei that push the company’s barrow in Australia. These names are missing in the following article but you can read them here.
When Chinese telecoms vendor Huawei was banned from supplying equipment for Australia’s multi-billion dollar national broadband network in 2012, it was a viewed as highly controversial decision. The (then Gillard) government had taken an unprecedented move, critics said, citing the fact that Huawei was a major supplier to telcos in the UK and New Zealand, which seemed to have no problem with it. In recent days Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency issued his own stern warning about the company.
Source: Fairfax Media
Australia no longer isolated as ‘Five Eyes’ turn on Huawei
The Shenzen-based company’s aggressively priced products were used by the likes of Vodafone and Optus in this country. Huawei had not even been banned in the United States, despite facing a torrent of criticism from politicians in Washington.
The Huawei NBN ban was even questioned by opposition MPs, including the federal Coalition’s then communications spokesperson, Malcolm Turnbull. (Turnbull had described Huawei as a “credible business”, but the ban was upheld once the Coalition won power).
When Turnbull’s own government banned Huawei from supplying equipment for Australia’s 5G mobile networks earlier this year, there was a similar outcry. There were concerns about a diplomatic incident with Beijing, claims of xenophobia, warnings from Huawei’s telco customers that it would set back the nation’s mobile services, and strongly worded criticism of Canberra in Chinese state-controlled media.
All of which is to say, Australia has been out on a limb when it comes to Huawei for quite a while now. But not anymore.
In recent weeks, the vendor, which was founded by a former member of the People’s Liberation Army, has run into strife in New Zealand, the UK, the US and Canada. As it turns out, these countries, together with Australia, form the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing alliance.
Overnight, Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada and extradited to the US. The shock development emerged just hours after British Telecom, one of the UK’s largest internet service providers, said it would remove Huawei’s equipment from the core of its mobile networks. Days earlier, the head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency issued his own stern warning about the company.
And just last week, New Zealand’s top intelligence agency blocked Huawei from supplying equipment for a 5G network being planned by Spark Telecom.
The arrest of Huawei’s CFO (who happens to be the daughter of the company’s powerful founder) is certain to inflame diplomatic tensions between the US and China. Canada’s Globe and Mail,which broke the news of the arrest, said it was based on the belief she had violated America’s trade embargo with Iran.
Which would mean it is less about cyber-security than trade. But it has hard to disentangle the two, with the US and China engaged in a cold war over trade with tech at its core, and long-term military supremacy potentially at stake.
As we recently wrote, the US increasingly views China’s technology sector as a strategic threat to the country’s dominant position globally. US officials have long bemoaned intellectual property theft by China (something Huawei itself has been accused of engaging in).
A key US government agency recently proposed restrictions on exports of emerging technologies that could be critical for the security of America and its allies- similar to the kind of controls it places on exports of weaponry and military equipment.
Whoever dominates those advanced technologies – which include artificial intelligence, robotics, and quantum computing – will likely be in a dominant position economically, politically and militarily.
In Australia, experts are also concerned about cyber-security attacks against our institutions and businesses emanating from China.
For example, consider recent reports in this newspaper that China’s peak security agency directed a surge in cyber attacks on Australian companies over the past year; and that internet traffic heading for Australia was diverted to China for a six-day period.
There’s no suggestion Huawei is in anyway involved in these attacks. But the government’s decision to ban it from Australia’s 5G networks was certainly based on concerns about China.
“A long history of cyber incidents shows cyber actors target Australia and Australians,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mitch Fifield said in their joint statement back in August without directly mentioning China.
“The government considers that the involvement of vendors who are likely to be subject to
extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law, may risk
failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorised access or
In other words, the government was concerned that even if Huawei wasn’t directly controlled by the Chinese government (the vendor has always denied that it is), under the country’s laws it wouldn’t be able to resist any demands made on it by Beijing.
Australia is no longer alone on this front. And whether you agree with it or not, Canberra’s decision to push back against Huawei looks less and less contentious.