The United States government is cracking Huawei. Legislators and intelligence officials have argued that the telecommunications giant could be exploited by the Chinese government for espionage and present a potentially serious national security risk, especially when the United States is building its next-generation 5G network. To face this threat, officials say they have blocked the government's use of the company's equipment, while the Justice Department has also accused Huawei's chief financial officer of violating sanctions against Iran and the company itself stealing business secrets.
Huawei's response has been simple: it is not a security threat. Most importantly, the company's leaders have said that the United States has not provided evidence that it is not working properly with the Chinese government or that it would in the future. In addition, they say that there are ways to mitigate the risk ̵
Earlier this month, the Huawei took up the stakes again. In a trial, the company asked for a court to find that the US government's ban on its products is constitutional. Huawei's rotating chairman said they had not convinced American lawmakers that their products were safe, but that they had "no choice" but to make a legal challenge.
No matter how the costume shakes, it hardly becomes the last volley in the ongoing battle. Is the US entitled to target Chinese equipment manufacturers such as Huawei, or has the company, as it claims, been unfairly damaged? The Verge convened experts, from prominent Chinese viewers to late Marco Rubio, to give their views.
The answers have been easily edited for length and consistency.
Robert Williams, Chief Executive Officer, Paul Tsai China Center, Yale Law School
Looking at 5G telecommunications networks as critical infrastructure, then the lack of smoking gun evidence that a company has previously rigged its hardware at the request of a foreign Government is not convinced whether the company can equip in 5G networks. The question is whether the risks of espionage or sabotage are unacceptably high, partly due to the credibility of the company claiming to be independent of the foreign government in question. This can help explain why Western governments broadly agree that Huawei poses security risks, even though they may be different from managing or mitigating these risks.
Then. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Huawei is a Chinese government-controlled telecommunications company with a single objective: undermining foreign competition by stealing business secrets and intellectual property rights and through artificially low prices behind the Chinese government. The Communist Chinese government poses the biggest and long-term threat to US national and economic security, and the US must be vigilant to prevent Chinese government-led telecom companies, such as Huawei and ZTE, from undermining and threatening America's 5G network. Future industries such as drivers without a car and Your Internet will depend on this critical technology and all measures that threaten our 21st century industries from developing and distributing 5G undoubtedly exclude both our national and financial security.
I am unsure that we can rely on Huawei's audit more than we can rely on the Chinese government to hand over intelligence showing that they do not steal intellectual property rights from US companies. No audit can reveal a future order from the Chinese government to transmit data to them. The United States must develop a long-term holistic strategy to protect against state-sponsored technology theft and risks for critical supply chains. We must also admit that the continued threat of the Chinese government's attack on US intellectual property rights, US companies and our networks and information on the state, is fully supported by the Chinese Communist Party.
Qing Wang, Professor of Marketing and Innovation, University of Warwick
Is Huawei a Security Threat? There is no difficult evidence to support this concept, and some of the reasons for this concept are weak. For example, the background to the Huawei presidents. Huawei founder Mr. Pure Zhengfei once served in the People's Liberation Army. As we know, serving in the army was a way to get out of poverty for rural people, where Mr. Ren is from. His time in the army was short and he was not in any important position.
As for the company's background, Huawei, unlike state-owned companies such as China Mobile and China Railway Corporation, is a private company such as Alibaba , Tencent and Haier, which arose from the economic reform of China in the 1980s. These companies would never have existed, let alone grew, if there was no economic reform and move from planned economy to market economy. State-owned companies seem different than private companies. The CEOs of state-owned companies are government officials and are directly appointed by the government; they are the products of the old communist heritage. On the other hand, the private companies' executive directors are either the founders themselves, or their offspring who succeed with their family businesses. These companies have developed their technical capabilities and business capabilities through market mechanisms both inside and outside China, adopting the same business practices and competing with their Western counterparts without government preferential treatment. State resources and support for state-owned companies are highest, as they are no longer suitable for the new market economy.
For someone like me who has been studying growth market companies for decades, Huawei is the textbooks for a good manufacturing company; unfortunately it has fallen victim to the anti-globalization policy and the feeling of the United States and the ongoing trade war with China. Huawei has been accused of close or even questionable relations with the Chinese government – thus a security threat to the West. It is true that now that these companies have become competitive in the global market, creating jobs and tax revenue for the government, the government is concerned that their success can continue. If anything, it is in Huawei's interest and the government sees that reputation and technical leadership continue rather than being destroyed by scandals such as espionage.
Then. Mark Warner (D-VA)
There is plenty of evidence that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and the Communist Party – and Huawei, as China's government and military tout as "national champion" is no exception. Allowing Huawei's entry into our 5G infrastructure can seriously jeopardize our national security and jeopardize critical supply chains. It can also undermine US competitiveness at a time when China is already trying to outperform the US technically and economically by using state-targeted and state-backed technology transfers.
It's not about finding "backdoors" in current Huawei products – It's a stupid thing. Software reviews of existing Huawei products are not sufficient to exclude the ability of a vendor to run a malicious update that enables future monitoring. Any safe Chinese product is a firmware update from being an uncertain Chinese product.
Nicholas Weaver, Personal Researcher, University of California, Berkeley
Sabotage can be real, really subtle. There are whole competitions on how to make sabotage almost undetectable, for example "hand-cut C contest". It's even more in the hardware. For example, you can sabotage the cryptographic random number generator so that if you knew the secret you can predict it, but if not you can't.
This is worse in telecommunication systems, because these systems are specially designed to be connected, so little sabotage in the specific cables that make it possible, and It would be very difficult to detect. In addition, you also have the manufacturing: just because the design is what you "certified" does not mean that what you buy is what you certified. A single microscopic difference: Adding a small tamper chip, and now you lose all your insurance.
Francis Dinha, CEO of OpenVPN
The United States has the right to treat Huawei as a security threat, but I do not believe any ban on any equipment is the right solution. Whatever equipment we use for 5G, there will be security risks. With such an exponentially higher amount of data, it will of course be an exponentially higher risk. But taking a competitor out of the market can lead to other companies becoming obvious, which would mean that America's innovation and development could slow down – which means an even more serious safety risk.
Instead of relying on our network to be safe, we should seriously consider building a super secure virtual network over the 5G infrastructure that could provide end-to-end security, controlled and managed by 5G network operators. We need guidelines to improve network security, and we need to push to make software for this equipment open source. Open source means transparency and security, which is exactly what we need when moving to 5G.
Huawei is a risk, surely – but there are other ways besides the ban on mitigating that risk. No matter who makes our 5G equipment, we need to be proactive about cyber security.
William Snyder, lawyer, Syracuse University
Huawei is a threat to US national security, but it lacks the greater point. Vulnerabilities in the network hardware and software supply chain have been and will continue to pose a threat to the US security level and many other countries, including China. It is still very difficult to see that a chip with millions of embedded transistors or software with millions of code lines just does what consumers know and agree to do. Although Huawei does not commit the type of crime that an American jury has accused, it is a company that delivers such a large share of the telecommunications network components market and has such ties with the People's Liberation Army. Huaii's need to operate under Chinese laws on cooperation with Chinese military and intelligence agencies is worrying.
Huawei's threat threat is hardly unique. Not only are other Chinese companies such as ZTE and China Mobile embedded in the supply chain, but it is also other countries. Huawei itself buys components from major US companies, including Qualcomm. These companies are subject to US law on cooperation with US intelligence services. Given the United States' essentially free market economy, rarely will any American company ever be so closely linked to the government as Chinese companies. If you are still a security politician for a nation such as India – with several times the US population – would you not worry about how many great military people have backdoors in your networks?
As long as conflicts arise at national level while critical cyber networks are being constructed and manufactured internationally, we must all be very careful. This is a systemic problem. Currently, Huawei's size and band to PLA make it the focus. In the future, another threat of the supply chain will be at the center.