Germany Asks The Impossible From Huawei Regarding 5G Plans
Germany won’t allow Huawei to participate in its buildout of the fifth generation of mobile networks unless it’s provided with guarantees that the firm will vehemently guard its data.
While speaking to reporters at Tokyo Keio University as part of her official visit to Japan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Chinese company’s 5G ambitions won’t go anywhere in Europe’s strongest economy unless Huawei is able to convince Berlin it won’t “simply hand the data to the [Chinese] state”.
The German leader did not elaborate on the matter in any meaningful way, though the wording of her remarks appears to imply her cabinet is currently considering a move similar to the one Australia made last summer – telling Huawei it won’t be considered a spying risk if it provides assurances it cannot deliver in any remotely feasible scenario.
An exercise in finger-pointing
Huawei often described the very notion of such a scenario being possible as frivolous but the ruling communist party in the Far Eastern country established a regulatory framework that essentially forces domestic firms to participate in Beijing’s intelligence gathering or face crippling consequences.
Huawei officials often argued the company’s track record with cybersecurity is spotless as far as allegations of state-forced backdoors being present in its software are concerned, though the idea of such vulnerabilities potentially existing is alone enough for the firm’s telecommunications solutions to be blocked, according to numerous members of the Western intelligence community.
Proponents of the Chinese firm occasionally claim that the United States government is equally proactive in its efforts to gather user data from private companies, yet such attempts often end up in the court of law and are dismissed, as evidenced by numerous cases involving the likes of Google, Apple, and Microsoft. The Chinese court system gives no comparable examples so if Beijing is compelling private entities to surrender various information on their foreign customers, it’s doing so in complete silence.
China’s government and Huawei itself repeatedly argued the distrust faced by the latter in the West is a result of American propaganda trying to stifle competition and disbalance an otherwise level playing field. The other side of the argument never entertained those claims in a serious manner, ironically asserting China should open its wireless market to firms such as Nokia and Ericsson if it’s truly concerned about safekeeping the overall level of global competitiveness in the industry.
From bad to worse
Huawei had a rough year in terms of international relations; following numerous (in)direct clashes with Washington, it entered a minor leadership crisis after its CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on December 1 after the DOJ requested for her to be detained due to allegations of financial fraud and embargo-related conspiracies.
Late last month, the U.S. government publicized a 13-count indictment against Huawei which names Ms. Meng and two of the company’s alleged satellites as defendants. At the same time, yet another wave of accusations concerning trade secret theft are being made against Huawei, adding to its already heavily troubled history of legal issues in the U.S. and a number of other Western countries.
Cisco, Motorola, and T-Mobile are just some of the high-profile firms that previously filed IP lawsuits against Huawei. One such case recently even resulted in an unconventional sting operation helmed by the FBI and new litigation appears to be on the horizon.
With Ms. Meng — the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei — currently fighting a U.S. extradition request meant to expose her to the possibility of receiving up to 30 years in federal prison, Huawei is in a rough spot despite its recent successes in the consumer electronics segment.