Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei held a rare press conference to address security concerns surrounding the company.
Zhengfei, who has not held a press conference with foreign media since 2015, decided to make an intervention over Huawei espionage claims.
Critics of Huawei believe the company would provide sensitive data to the Chinese government upon request. Some even say the firm is compelled by Chinese law, something Huawei has always denied exists.
Zhengfei said that his company has “never received any request from any government to provide improper information”. He added: “I love my country, I support the Communist Party, but I will not do anything to harm the world.”
Many of the concerns originate from Zhengfei’s high-ranking position in the People’s Liberation Army prior to founding Huawei. Many countries have continued to use Huawei equipment in previous generation networks. With 5G, however, the risk is greater.
Backdrop of 5G concerns
5G networks are expected to be used for a wide range of critical applications including smart cities, driverless cars, and even remote surgery. A great deal of trust is required that vendors will not conduct espionage or even shut-down networks if requested.
Some countries, like the US and Australia, have decided the risk is not worth it. Others, like the UK and Canada, are taking precautions by having their national security agencies inspect equipment for potential backdoors. Several nations are still determining their own positions.
Telecoms vendors need to gain a foothold in lucrative 5G networks so it’s no surprise to see Huawei doing all it can to assure countries it poses no threat.
Huawei recently argued it would make no sense to conduct espionage. The company said if caught the once it would be catastrophic to its business.
Huawei employee arrests
Wang Weijing, a Huawei employee, was arrested in Poland earlier this month on spying allegations. A spokesperson for the country’s Internal Security Agency said the allegations against Wang were related to individual actions not directly linked to Huawei.
Huawei promptly sacked Weijing citing that “in accordance with the terms and conditions of Huawei’s labour contract, we have made this decision because the incident has brought Huawei into disrepute.”
Meng Wanzhou, Chief Financial Officer of Huawei and Zhengfei’s daughter, was arrested in Canada last month on charges of breaking US sanctions on Iran and conspiring to defraud banks by pretending one of Huawei subsidiaries was not linked to the company.
Hua Chunying, Spokeswoman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said allegations of security threats posed by Chinese companies were being used to suppress their growth. The US, in particular, has been calling on its allies to ban Huawei equipment and has reportedly even been offering incentives to use Western alternatives.
“We urge relevant parties to cease the groundless fabrications and unreasonable restrictions toward Huawei and other Chinese companies, and create a fair, good and just environment for mutual investment and normal cooperation by both sides’ companies,” she said.
Ms Hua added that using "security reasons to hype, obstruct or restrict" Chinese company ties with other countries would be hurting their own interests.
Justifying the country’s decision not to ban Huawei equipment, a Canadian security official said that reducing the number of vendors in national 5G networks increases their vulnerability. If one manufacturer’s equipment is compromised, it would represent less of the overall network.
Some experts believe Chinese equipment is at least a year ahead of Western rivals; Huawei itself has a reputation for its MIMO antenna technology. Limiting competition also drives up prices and reduces innovation – costing operators more, for less capable equipment.
Zhengfei notes his company is working on greater transparency in a bid to alleviate fears. In the meantime, he said Huawei would sell its equipment in other markets that could serve as “examples to prove we are trustworthy.”
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam to learn more.