The United States government is cracking down hard on Huawei. Lawmakers and intelligence officials have claimed the telecommunications giant could be exploited by the Chinese government for espionage, presenting a potentially grave national security risk, especially as the US builds out its next-generation 5G network. To meet that threat, officials say, they've blocked government use of the company's equipment, while the Justice Department has also accused Huawei's chief financial officer of violating sanctions against Iran, and the company itself of stealing trade secrets.
Huawei's response has been simple: it's not a security threat. Most importantly, the company's leaders have said the US has not produced evidence that it works inappropriately with the Chinese government or that it would in the future. Moreover, they say, there are ways to mitigate risk — ones that have worked successfully in other countries. Huawei's chairman has even gone so far as to call the US government hypocritical, criticizing China while the National Security Agency spies around the globe. The company has also denied any criminal wrongdoing.
Huawei's response has been simple: it's not a security threat
Earlier this month, Huawei upped the stakes again. In a lawsuit, the company asked a court to find that the US government's ban on its products is unconstitutional. Huawei's rotating chairman said that, after failing to convince US lawmakers that its products were secure, they had "no choice" but to make a legal challenge.
Regardless of how the suit shakes out, it will hardly be the last volley in the ongoing battle. Is the US right to target Chinese equipment makers like Huawei, or has the company, as it maintains, been unfairly maligned? The Verge convened experts, from prominent China-watchers to Sen. Marco Rubio, to give their views.
Responses have been lightly edited for length and consistency.
Robert Williams, executive director, Paul Tsai China Center, Yale Law School
If one views 5G telecommunications networks as critical infrastructure, then the lack of smoking-gun evidence that a company has previously rigged its hardware at the behest of a foreign government is not dispositive of whether to allow that company's equipment in 5G networks. The question is whether the risks of espionage or sabotage are unacceptably high, which depends in part on whether the company can credibly claim to be independent of the foreign government in question. This may help to explain why Western governments broadly agree that Huawei poses security risks, even as they may differ over how to manage or mitigate those risks.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Huawei is a Chinese state-directed telecom company with a singular goal: undermine foreign competition by stealing trade secrets and intellectual property, and through artificially low prices backed by the Chinese government. The Communist Chinese government poses the greatest, long-term threat to America's national and economic security, and the US must be vigilant in preventing Chinese state-directed telecoms companies, like Huawei and ZTE, from undermining and endangering America's 5G networks. Future, cutting-edge industries like driverless vehicles and the Internet of Things will depend on this critical technology, and any action that threatens our 21st-century industries from developing and deploying 5G undoubtedly undermines both our national and economic security.