The evil Huawei? We have no proof yet

Talk of a ban on the Chinese telecom gear giant smells of political posturing



The imbroglio that erupted earlier this week over Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawai is really quite funny. No really, it’s funny—and not at all scary, as some supposed experts would have us believe.

The company is being shut out of deals in the U.S. on fears that it may enable Chinese spying on Americans and the U.S. government. Security experts are also warning that Canada faces the same threat, given that Huawei has supplied a number of telecom companies here—including Telus, Bell, SaskTel and Wind—with their network equipment.

In fact, it looks like the Canadian government is strongly considering banning Huawei from bidding on national projects too, which only heightens the absurdity. Just about every phone and computer used in North America is made in China—should we start considering whether those too are bugged?

The fear-mongering is having its expected effect, with readers over on CBC predictably freaking out over the potential threat.

The problem is, there’s little proof of said threat while the fears themselves are totally bereft of logic.

The problem, U.S. officials have found, is that Huawei and ZTE—another Chinese telecom gear company under investigation—are privately owned and potentially susceptible to their government’s influence. Yet, as ZTE’s spokesperson put it, that standard “would apply to any company operating in China.”

The Permanent Select Committee’s report on Huawei and ZTE is here (links to PDF). It’s unsurprisingly heavy on rhetoric, light on substance, and could in fact be written by any country’s government about any telecom gear company. The U.S. is happy to do business with every other Chinese company, including those that make just about every material good bought by Americans, but not telecom equipment.

Might this be because American telecom gear makers such as Cisco and Juniper are having a tough time competing against their lower-cost Chinese rivals? The Huawei ban sure has the stink of protectionism to it.

More to the point, should any American or Canadian really be worried about the Chinese government reading their emails and other information? What can China really do to us that our own governments can’t do much more readily?

In the case of industrial espionage, the Chinese government is widely believed to have supported hacking attempts on the likes of Google and Nortel. But really, government hackers hardly have to go through the trouble of gleaning information from networks in North America when they can just drop in on all those Western-sponsored factories located on their own soil.

The most extreme critics are worried about things going to the next level, where China could use Huawei-built networks in North America to engage in a Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 cyberwar scenario, taking over military drones and causing mass destruction.

Yup. Never mind that the Chinese and U.S. economies are joined at the hip, symbiotically dependent on one another. If one country so much as sneezes at the other, the world can go into recession. That’s why, despite all the rhetoric, trade ties between the two continue to get stronger and deeper.

Besides, if China really wanted to mess up the U.S., wouldn’t it just withdraw some of the $1 trillion of debt it holds? Never mind telecom networks—that would really throw the country into chaos. It ain’t going to happen, though, according to the Pentagon.

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The evil Huawei? We have no proof yet

  1. The Chinese have been ‘spying’ on us for years….they’ve been right in the DND, downloading. Got all our military secrets and party times. Stock Day said he was shocked….but then he was shocked by the skyscrapers in Beijing not being made of bamboo so go figure.

    Russians tend to do it the old-fashioned way, paying someone off, or they cover with that…… but not the Chinese. Top tech for them. Right up front.

    They do the same in the US and UK….already have the specs on the F-35

    Are we jamming them? Noop.

    UK and US are finally planning on ‘cyber warfare’….bad title…should be the Cyber defence dept’ but….us, no, of course not. Too busy arguing abortion and separatism and bathroom bills etc

    So politicians just make stupid headlines like this rubbish over Huawei.

    • “Stock Day said he was shocked….but then he was shocked by the skyscrapers in Beijing not being made of bamboo so go figure”

      Is that true? Man we sure dodged a bullet when that guy decided turning up at a press conference in a wet suit and sitting on a PWC was the ticket to 24 Sussex.

      • Yeah, unfortunately….embarrassingly!

        Came back from his first trip to Beijing and said that. I spewed my latte!

      • We dodged that bullet because M Chretien weighed his risk, cut short one of his majority governments, and called an election a good year or so ahead of time. Timing is everything, and JC saved us from that dolt Stockwell because he was, believe it or not, picking up steam. Not that we got much better with steverino.

  2. It probably is back door protectionism. [ the US has a fine history of it after all] But that doesn’t mean there aren’t inherent security risks. Mr Nowak’s argument boils down to…we’re in the same boast with them, so obviously they have no interest in stealing the wood out of the keel, and we know exactly what kind of wood is in the keel, so what’s the bid deal?
    The implicit assumption is that China’s snooping is in the end no more threatening than US snooping on them. That’a an arguably dangerous and complacent assumption. My understanding is that presently China continues to be an undemocratic state…the US is still slightly ahead on that score.
    It is amusing though to consider that some of the key nuclear hardware technology of both countries may well come out of pretty well the same factory in Taiwan. Capitalism…you gotta love it. Even nationalism and war making capacity has to bend before its immutable logic.

  3. Maybe even more to the point, shouldn’t all the pro-China business types in Canada relax a little about economic opinions that differ slightly from their own domestically? I’m thinking about the hysteria that arises about “socialism” every time it looks like the NDP might form a government somewhere they haven’t previously. If Canadian business leaders can do deals with crypto-fascist/communists in China, why do they persist in red scare hysteria vis a vis the obviously moderate socialistic parties here at home?

    • Something about a horse and a barn door comes to mind here.

      • so…. you know…. leave it open with the keys in the lock.

        • The horse, she is gone…

  4. How about rely solely on ourselves. If we need something, let’s just make it. Never import anything. That will be absolutely safe and secure.

  5. This message reminds me of former U.S. over dispute oppression of other countries, they take some extreme tactics and called on the people to go along with the national measures, these phenomena in my opinion is absurd. We should stop this behavior, we should do some thing for peace in the era of peace.