Chinese telecom giant Huawei in the spotlight

World Today

A logo of Huawei is displayed at a electronic retail shop in Hong Kong, Friday, March 29, 2019. Chinese tech giant Huawei’s deputy chairman defended its commitment to security Friday after a stinging British government report added to Western pressure on the company by accusing it of failing to repair dangerous flaws in its telecom technology. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in December touched off a number of fights Huawei is waging around the world. CGTN’s Gerald Tan takes a look at the Chinese telecom company in the spotlight.

To call Huawei a telecom juggernaut is something of an understatement. This growing influence has thrust the Chinese firm into the headlines over a range of issues. So why is it on the public’s radar?

Huawei is the world’s second largest smartphone maker behind Samsung, selling considerably more devices than Apple.

It’s also the biggest supplier of telecom equipment and widely acknowledged as the leader in 5G technology, the next generation of mobile broadband. That worries some, particularly, the United States, which bans Huawei products from use in its agencies. Washington sees Huawei as a security threat, a potential spy for the Chinese government and is pressuring allies to follow suit.

Speaking at a recent global 5G conference, U.S. National Security Council Special Assistant Joshua Steinman said, “We hope that like-minded governments will avoid committing to any one system or vendor until they are able to properly vet and compare available technologies.”

But some nations, including the U.K., are working with Huawei to build their 5G infrastructure. Jeremy Fleming, the Director of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency explained: “We’re looking at the risks that arrive from their security and engineering processes as well as the way these technologies are deployed in our national telecoms networks. A flag of origin of 5G equipment is an important, but it is a secondary, factor.”

And yet, there’s been fallout. British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson lost his job, accused of leaking information on the Huawei deal discussed during a closed security meeting.

The arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver has strained Canada’s relations with China. She faces extradition to the U.S., accused of fraud and conspiring to violate sanctions on Iran.

And in its own lawsuit, Huawei is challenging Washington’s ban on its products.

Huawei maintains that is has no direct links to the Chinese government or military. And it says the political pressure it’s facing amounts to stall tactics, so other companies can catch up to its dominance in 5G.