The Chinese telecom giant Huawei has always insisted it is its own corporate entity, operating outside the purview of China’s Communist government. In a recent CBS interview, the company’s CEO was asked if his company ever provided information to the Chinese government.
“It is not possible because across our entire organization, we’ve stressed once and again that we will never do that. If we did have that, with America’s advanced technology, they would [have] found that already. So that proves we do not have it,” Ren Zhengfei replied, using circular logic to make his point.
However, a new white paper provides key details about the links between Huawei and the Chinese government. Christopher Baldwin’s paper, “Huawei Technologies’ Links to Chinese State Security Services,” draws on resumes which were uploaded to publicly accessible databases, showing the links between the supposedly-independent telecom company and the Chinese military-industrial complex.
For instance, one employee, “served as a Ministry of State Security (MSS) representative working for Huawei. It appears from a close reading of his CV that he served as an MSS representative on a specific project or product development.”
It is worth quoting the paper at length when it comes to the author’s four-point conclusion:
First, the data provided is direct, first-hand testimony about Huawei activities, the behavior of its personnel, and its relationships with other Chinese organizations. The data provided comes directly from Huawei employees testifying to their work and activities.
Second, Huawei employees effectively confirm the rumored relationship between the Chinese state, military, and intelligence gathering services. Huawei employees confirm the fears of links and acting in concert with the Chinese state.
Third, the relationship is clearly systematized given the public references to MSS unit representatives. In other words, this is not simply due to Huawei recruiting employees that used to work in the military by normal chance. Rather, there is a clear institutionalization where the Chinese state and intelligence gathering assets are placed in Huawei within a systemic organization designed to facilitate information flows.
Fourth, the institutional relationship between Huawei and Chinese state security services directly contradicts Huawei claims that they have no relationship with these services. It should cause significant concern that Huawei employees provide evidence that directly contradicts public relations statements and claims.”
Many will likely point out that it is also common for CIA employees to go on to work at Cisco or Motorola. A signals technician in the U.S. Navy may end up working for AT&T. How is this any different from how the NSA partners with American telecom companies to spy on people? It is different in several key ways.
Members of the American intelligence community and the military truly leave their jobs and go to work for the private sector. Yes, military intelligence-corporate relationships do exist, however, they are focused on international spying, not on domestic surveillance. The U.S. intelligence community also serves a democratically-elected government, subject to American law, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution. In this sense, there simply is no comparison between the CIA and China’s MSS or between Huawei and Verizon. These organizations simply are not mirror images of one another.
The Trump administration has placed a ban on the use of Huawei IT infrastructure in U.S. government systems. President Trump also threatened to curb intelligence sharing with the United Kingdom, a member of Five Eyes and arguably America’s closest ally, if the U.K. government allows Huawei to build its 5G network.