Are Huawei Smartphones Safe?
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The threat is legitimate, given the murky links between Huawei and Chinese authorities. The Chinese state has the authority to demand tech companies like Huawei turn over useful information or provide access to the communications and technologies owned and sold by Huawei. Chinese authorities can use this information and access to facilitate espionage or cyber-attacks over Huawei communications technologies. Consumer tech devices like phones that rely on Huawei technologies will be easier for Chinese authorities to penetrate and exploit for these reasons
As far back as 2012, the US government has been trying to probe into Huawei’s governance and relationship with the Chinese government. When the US House Intelligence Committee asked Huawei to list its ten largest shareholders, it refused to reply.
Huawei is what is known as a ‘national champion’, a title given to companies “which help further the government’s strategic aims”. In return, the government gives these companies easier access to financing and preference in government contract bidding. Magnus also notes that the Chinese government directly sets these company's goals that need to be fulfilled.
One of the most notorious aspects of the Chinese government’s domestic policy is its control over the information the Chinese people are able to access. Here, too, tech companies have a part to play. Even Google is planning to re-enter the Chinese market with a version of its Search tool that complies with China’s censorship laws.
Hi-tech companies like Huawei are developing useful technologies for monitoring and controlling potential enemies of the Chinese state. China relies on such companies in its efforts to develop a massive surveillance state and spy on potential threats in China and abroad. For these reasons, China’s government can be expected to remain a strong supporter of Huawei, and to expect Huawei’s cooperation with state authorities as needed.
From the connections to the Communist Party, through to continued work with the PLA, there’s much about Huawei that remains murky. Until it offers genuine transparency around its structure and ties to the Chinese state, these alarm bells will continue to ring, and the US market may remain out of Huawei’s reach.