Why Plano-based Chinese Telcom Huawei Thinks It Has Been Frozen Out of the U.S.
Last fall, Huawei, the Chinese telecommunication giant whose U.S. base just happens to be in Plano, was the subject of intense scrutiny over fears that it might serve as a Trojan horse for cyber-spies in Beijing. Huawei, for its part, did little to allay fears by dummying up during a congressional inquest of its own urging. It refused to elaborate on the amount of daylight between itself and the Chinese government; its in-house Communist Party; the backgrounds of its powerful board members; and allegations that it provides network service to the People's Liberation Army cyber-warfare unit.
Governor Rick Perry at the ribbon-cutting in Plano, Huawei's U.S. base of operations.
The U.S. House Select Committee concluded that the telecom -- the main service provider in Kansas, by the way -- posed too great a risk to "critical infrastructure" and "national-security interests." Later, a White House review reportedly found no smoking gun to indicate Huawei had engaged in cyber-sleuthing for the Chinese. Yet fears persisted that certain security vulnerabilities in its software may have been inserted intentionally -- a cracked door for spies to sneak through.
The damage was done, and Huawei saw the prospects for an incursion into the massive U.S. market stymied. Its vice president of marketing predicted last month that sales here would stall. Reasonable minds could debate whether the company got a raw deal because of ongoing antagonism between the two countries.
But its chief of cyber-security, John Suffolk, apparently has his own theories about why the feds want to keep Huawei's tentacles out of U.S. telecom infrastructure. In a slightly rambling but not entirely wacky blog post addressed to President Barack Obama, he opined: "Maybe this is why America doesn't want us to sell our equipment to American companies; maybe they will worry that we will see what they do with American Citizens personal data, monitoring and storing of everything that passes through telecommunications.
It's a fair point. The extent to which our online activities have been monitored over the course of the last decade or so is breathtaking. But there's more than a little irony when a company whose founder and president was a People's Liberation Army official postures like some civil libertarian hero.
If the first theory doesn't fit, he's got another: Perhaps it's all part of a Red-scare strategy to foment a useful fear in which the Plano-based telecom is simply a pawn.
"[It] maybe [sic] that the USA is executing a strategy that: drives Corporate America to undertake the necessary security changes; drives Corporate America to bring jobs back home, especially from China by creating such a poisonous atmosphere about China (in this context Huawei is just collateral damage); and the USA looks to slow the economic growth of China outside of its own border."
If I didn't know any better, I'd say that Suffolk is positioning Huawei -- a company you and I would need prior approval from the Chinese government to own stock in -- as some kind of free-market David facing off against a Big Government Goliath. At any rate, his post came a few days before the Pentagon for the first time openly accused the Chinese of spying on U.S. government computers. Bad timing, perhaps.