Huawei’s security troubles are hardening into struggle between the US and China

The past few months have seen telecom companies around the world struggle with what to do with Huawei. In America, Huawei has effectively been locked out of telecom networks, citing national security concerns. However, like the rest of the world pretty much the same choice, not all countries are convinced Huawei is a threat. Many experts in the US believe that Huawei's exposure to the Chinese government is dangerous in itself. However, the time has made the national split harder to ignore.

In this week alone, two prominent figures have come out to take sides. Reasons behind this seem to be more political than technological. ITU chief Houlin Zhao came out in Geneva to speak against the ban stating, “If you find anything wrong, then you can charge [Huawei] and accuse them.” “But if we don’t have anything then to put them on the blacklist – I think this is not fair.” Zhao was born in China and he worked at the government’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications before he moved to the telecom union of the UN. As such, it isn't a much of a shock that he would be concerned over the lack of evidence against the company.

While all these are going on, US officials continue to say that all Chinese companies are potentially suspect. DHS’s cybersecurity and infrastructure chief Chris Krebs said at a cyber security forum said that what we should be worried about the most is the legal regime of the origin country instead of the specific product they were shipping.

“Our focus is not on the country of origin, or the company, but it’s about what is the rule of law under which that product is potentially subject to,” said Chris Krebs. That same logic could apply to other Chinese companies or Russian exports like Kaspersky Lab’s antivirus software. According to Krebs, “it’s the rise of authoritarian states and how they’re operationalizing their tech sectors.”

Different people will read this and sympathize with different sides. However, as time goes on, seeing how technical analysis can be used to resolve this argument is becoming more difficult. The fight over Huawei is gradually turning into a fight between China and the US and everyone is caught in the middle.

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