By Winny Sun
On March 6th, Chinese telecom giant Huawei sued the United States government, accusing it of unfairly banning the company from the U.S. market without providing any incriminating evidence.
Previously, the Trump administration has accused Huawei of working with the Chinese government to spy on foreign telecommunications networks. Major U.S. wireless carriers have been warned to not work with the Chinese electronics giant.
According to William R. Evanina, the director of America’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center, “Chinese company relationships with the Chinese government aren’t like private sector company relationships with governments in the West.”
“China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law requires Chinese companies to support, provide assistance, and cooperate in China’s national intelligence work, wherever they operate,” he added.
Huawei denies the allegations. According to the company’s lawyers, prohibitions placed on the corporation by the United States have “inflict[ed] immediate and ongoing economic, competitive, and reputational harms on Huawei.” The company wants an opportunity to counter accusations made against it—the lawsuit will enable the telecom to prove whether or not it engages in spying activities.
The lawsuit comes at a critical time. This past January, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against the firm and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, for dodging American sanctions on Iran and stealing intellectual property.
Meng is currently detained in Vancouver, Canada, where she is going through an extradition hearing conducted by Canadian courts. It will take a few months for a final decision to be made. In the meantime, tensions between China and Canada continue to escalate after Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians and detained several more.
Despite current tough measures against Huawei, the US government is also treading a fine line. Excessively punitive action may cause the Chinese government to strike back, initiating retaliatory moves with damaging consequences. What complicates tensions even more is that the US is not entirely innocent. In 2013, Edward J. Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had hacked into Huawei to steal product source codes. How much patience does the Chinese government have?
With Huawei being a potential security threat, the US is also discouraging other countries from working with the telecommunication company. Last year Australia barred the Chinese company from providing 5G equipment, but other countries are still debating whether to let Huawei in. Since they want access to the Chinese market and cheaper Huawei products, they don't want to anger China, yet.
British intelligence recently concluded that the risks of using Huawei 5G equipment are manageable, rebutting the US’s stance on the issue. The UK and other countries like Germany may continue to import innovative Huawei technology, but by instituting proper regulatory oversight, they may manage to inflame America less.
“Europe is fascinating because they have to take sides. They are in the middle. All these governments, they need to make decisions. Huawei is everywhere.” Philippe Le Corre, nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said.