Hold the phone: Huawei mistrust imperils China tech ambitions

SHANGHAI, China's ambitious drive to dominate next generation 5G technology faces a sudden reality check as fears spread that telecom companies like Huawei could be proxies for Beijing's intrusive security apparatus.

Fifthgeneration mobile communications are the next milestone in the

digital revolution, bringing nearinstantaneous connectivity and vast data

capacity.

They will enable the widespread adoption of futuristic technologies such as

artificial intelligence and automated cars and factories advances China is

desperate to lead.

With 5G's rollout expected to gain pace in coming years, the race to

dominate standards and control security and data traffic underpins much of

the current hightech rivalry between the United States and China, technology

experts said.

Huawei's status as a leading world supplier of the backbone equipment for

telecoms systems mostly in developing markets gives China an inside

track.

But analysts said mounting concern over Huawei imperils that lead.

This is a big threat because if Huawei loses access to lucrative Western

markets, this will impact its ability to grow and finance R and D, said Paul

Triolo, a global technology policy expert with risk consultancy Eurasia

Group.

It also could hinder the deployment of 5G networks in China, which are a

key piece of China's overall effort to upgrade its industrial base, he

added.

The US defence establishment fears China's dominance of critical 5G

infrastructure could enable it to disrupt American military communications or

otherwise wage asymmetrical warfare in a confrontation.

Triolo warned of potentially disastrous fallout for China if US law

enforcement efforts in the spotlight after the arrest of Huawei executive

Meng Wanzhou in Canada result in a ban on sales of US chips and other

vital technology to Huawei.

This could be catastrophic for China's tech ambitions, threatening

(Huawei) itself, supporting industries, and future development, he said.

Burglar with a key

New Zealand recently joined Australia and the US in essentially barring use

of Huawei equipment in domestic networks. Following Meng's arrest on December

1, similar sentiments have arisen from Tokyo to Brussels.

On Monday, Kyodo news agency reported Japan's top three telecom companies

would forego equipment from Huawei and another big Chinese player, ZTE.

US officials and lawmakers have long expressed concern that China could use

its tech firms to steal trade secrets accusations Chinese foreign ministry

spokesman Lu Kang dismissed on Monday as ridiculous.

These people do not provide a single (piece of) evidence to show how

Huawei affects their national security, Lu said.

Distrust of Huawei stems in part from the background of founder Ren

Zhengfei, a 74yearold former People's Liberation Army engineer.

The US has already put the squeeze on ZTE, which faced insolvency earlier

this year after the Trump administration temporarily banned American

companies from selling it vital components.

Huawei has secured many leading 5G patents and supplied networking

equipment for telecom systems around the world that will inevitably carry

huge amounts of US data, putting that information at potential risk.

One way to envision (the threat) is to imagine the person who built your

house decides to burgle it, James Lewis, a technology policy expert at the

Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in an analysis last

week.

They know the layout, power system, access points, (and) may have kept a

key.

'We don't like it'

But US firms like Intel and Qualcomm produce the advanced chips critical

for 5G, giving Washington huge sway over Huawei, which depends heavily on

those technologies.

If the US cuts off Huawei's chip supply and further isolates the company,

the blow will be huge, bigger than ZTE, said Shi Yinhong, an expert on

ChinaUS relations at Beijing's Renmin University.

If Huawei is hit hard, China will lose its 5G lead.

China observers say President Xi Jinping's more assertive global stance

bears much of the blame for Huawei's troubles.

Late leader Deng Xiaoping famously observed that China's strategy should be

to hide your strength, bide your time, to avoid triggering a crippling

foreign backlash.

But Xi has dumped that, accumulating oneman power, scrapping term limits

and openly declaring China's ambition to become a hightech power.

Beijing also passed a law in 2015 obliging its corporations to aid the

government on matters of national security.

These moves have sparked alarm in the West, and the US has accused Chinese

entities of massive cyberattacks.

One of the biggest criticisms of Xi in China is: 'did he take the stage

too fast, did he try to push Chinese power too soon?' said Christopher

Balding, a China expert at Fulbright University in Saigon.

He has behaved as neartotalitarian and is acting similarly

internationally and people are saying 'we don't like it.'

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)