Senators Express ‘Concerns’ to Obama About Chinese Firm Huawei

New contract from an ally brings more U.S. pressure on a Chinese telecom giant suspected of cyber-espionage

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With Vice President Joe Biden headed to South Korea later this week, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration is complaining to Seoul about its decision to award a major contract to the Chinese telecom giant Huawei. The pressure on South Korea comes in part after a letter to top Obama officials from two key U.S. Senators, which TIME has obtained.

As TIME explained in a feature on Huawei earlier this year, many U.S. intelligence officials suspect that the company—whose founder once served in China’s People’s Liberation Army—helps to facilitate Beijing’s global cyber-espionage. In this case, the concern is over South Korea’s selection of Huawei to develop the country’s next-generation broadband network, as explained by Democratic Senators Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in their November 27 letter to three Obama cabinet chiefs, which you can read here:

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The South Korea flap—which Biden is likely to raise in private, and to be asked about in public, when he arrives in Seoul—is only the latest installment in an ongoing U.S. campaign against the world’s biggest telecommunications company. Last year, a House Intelligence Committee report on Huawei warned U.S. companies against doing business with the Chinese firm, due to the “heightened threat of cyber espionage and predatory disruption or destruction of U.S. networks if telecommunications networks are built by companies with known ties to the Chinese state.” (Huawei denounced the report as politically-driven “China-bashing,” and denied the charges.) American protests recently also helped convince Australia to exclude Huawei from bidding on contracts to develop that country’s broadband network.

In a rare interview last month, the company’s founder showed his frustration, telling French journalists that the company had “decided to exit the U.S. market” rather than allow itself to become an obstacle to U.S.-China relations. (A company spokesman’s subsequent comments suggest that “exit” might be an overstatement.)

Meanwhile, the company expands apace throughout Asia and into Africa, where Ethiopia recently awarded Huawei — along with ZTE, China’s second largest telecom provider, which is partly owned by the state — a two-year, $1.6 billion contract. Huawei now has 18 offices on the continent where, as Foreign Policy recently noted, U.S. officials the Chinese telecom “could be wiring the continent for surveillance.”

One thing to remember when you read current and former government officials making accusations at Huawei: the company’s business rivals stand to benefit from the political pressure. That doesn’t mean the accusations are false. And no one should be naive about China’s cyber-espionage activities. (Nor America’s, of course.) But it’s always worth asking: “Cui bono?

8 comments
limhuang
limhuang

World forgot that Chinese made the whole world a better place than the American did. America was full of garbage and drugs and porns. Chinese spearheaded of lunching a rocket to the moon.Chinese is the smallest population America yet they improve the living of all american like the Chinese did in Singapore.

duduong
duduong

Americans suspect Huawei of spying not because there is any evidence but because spying is what they have been doing to China. This is like Al Capone accusing a new Chicago resident being a gangster simply because Capone himself is one.

r0b
r0b

@duduong Wrong. I have watched the Chinese office at my Company become part of the world-wide network, and suddenly a Server goes 'berserk' (according to them) and starts trying to login to every domain account with random passwords...Disabling the real accounts in the process, which was highly amateur since it became obvious their was an issue. This Server just suddenly appeared and no one knows how it became part of the domain...Right.

Then the office employees that we had to let go due to improper actions of every sort, borderline bribery and falsification of huge amounts of data to hide things. That was about half the office of 50 people.

Or let's go further, how about the Chinese party official who wanted his daughter to go to school in Germany, but would 'appreciate it' if she was able to work at the company's office there. Within weeks she was fired for taking pictures of devices in minute detail as well as documents.

Life for a tech company when dealing with china...

No, there is obviously no problem with corrupt and immoral actions in Chinese 'business'...None at all. We have no proof.

Except, you know, our friggin eyes!!!!

EchoLin
EchoLin

@r0b How will you teach your kid if you have for example one day on the street you was robbed and you back home and teach your kid never go to the street, better stay at home for safe? You can't use your  chinese company on hearsay( even it's a truth)to state here about a whole situation, seems like all companies in america no corrupt, no immoral actions? If you pay attention to politics, pls learn how to respect reality first, not to use your bias emotions. And btw, snowdon's news about supervise and your country's spying thing to the world, it's not about rumor, it happened just there. Our friggin eyes, and YES. Right, my english is really bad, as i HATE it. 

fanlu
fanlu

@r0b may I ask, which company is it?

duduong
duduong

@r0b 

We are talking about Huawei, not your Chinese company. In case you have not noticed, China is a large country of 1.3 billion people, each with his only will to do good or bad. If Huawei is really doing what you are accusing it of doing, either FBI, CIA or NSA will have no problems providing actual proof for it, or they would be imbeciles wasting tens of billions of tax payer dollars  every year. The lack of such proof is therefore a strong indication of Huawei's innocence.

The per capita murder rate in the US is over 60 times that in China; this statistics, however, does not justify Chinese treating every American as a murderer. So, even if Chinese companies are 60 times more sleazy than American ones (highly unlikely given what we know about American companies), your accusation remains baseless and illogical.