Who’s in hysterics over Huawei?

"Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has assured the public that there is no cause for concern on Huawei’s involvement in the country’s telecommunications industry."


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for one.

After making a categorical declaration during his recent brief visit here that the US would come to the country’s aid in the event of war in the South China Sea under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, he also warned that the government should keep the Chinese technology firm Huawei at arm’s length as it poses a security risk.

“Our task has been to share with the world the risks associated with that technology, the risks to the Filipino people, the risk to Philippine security...We believe that competition, whether it’s in 5G or some other technology, ought to be open, free, transparent, and we worry that Huawei is not that,” Pompeo said.

He emphasized that while every nation must make “their own sovereign decision” on the use of Huawei technology, the US wants to “make sure that the world has its eyes wide open” on the risks posed by the use of Huawei systems as the backbone of communication networks. He pointed out that the US would not partner with countries that make use of Huawei systems, as doing so would endanger the US.

But in the same breath, the American official also touted US technology: “American companies are the best partners in the priorities of infrastructure development and the digital economy because they operate with the highest standards of transparency and adherence to the rule of law. The same cannot be said for Chinese state-run or state-backed enterprises.”

Now the cat is out of the bag as to the American agenda. Is that because Huawei has already emerged as the world’s No. 1 telecom supplier and the No. 2 smartphone maker after Samsung, dislodging the American-owned Apple?

Could it be that strenuous American efforts to convince other countries to stay away from patronizing Huawei smartphones and other telecommunications technology is that Apple and other US firms are hurting badly from the Chinese telco giant’s development of cutting-edge 5G technology, leaving them biting the dust?

And given the Trump administration’s bloody trade war with China in recent years, is Washington using its crackdown on Huawei to assert its dominance as an economic and military superpower?

It appears that Washington wants to get Huawei out of the way by invoking national security risks not just to the US but also other countries, including the Philippines. After all, as observers have noted, control of the critical infrastructure that runs 5G is crucial as the new network will not only support super-fast mobile internet but will also be the backbone behind other advanced technology like driverless cars.

Is the US hysterics over Huawei’s 5G advances working?

In July last year, Australia said it would ban Huawei from 5G rollout amid security concerns. Later, Britain followed suit, saying it would strip Huawei equipment from 4G network by 2021 and won’t use it in 5G core. In February this year, the US State Department urged European countries not to use Huawei equipment in their 5G rollouts. Last month, Italy was also reported as pushing for a ban on Huawei 5G.

Here at home, however, US calls for the government to keep Huawei out seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has assured the public that there is no cause for concern on Huawei’s involvement in the country’s telecommunications industry.

Lorenzana brushed aside the  possibility of the Chinese listening in on the country’s communication lines via the Chinese firm: “Well, that is a cause for concern if they are already interfering in our activities. But I’m sure the officials of the Department of Information and Communication Technology are doing their job to secure us. The DICT has assured us that our security is not compromised.”

The Department of Interior and Local Government is also eyeing a partnership with Huawei and China Telecom for its 18-city, 12,000-camera surveillance project called Safe Philippines. The P20-billion contract with state-owned China International Telecommunication Construction Corporation for the emergency response and monitoring system involves tapping Huawei to provide the equipment, including CCTV cameras. While the China-funded project has been flagged bys senators concerned about security and privacy risks, it appears that the project is already ready to roll.

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei for the development of “smart cities” in Clark, Pampanga and Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei and other senior executives have given assurances that the company would not build backdoors or hand over customer data to Beijing. Ren also said the company would never help China spy on the United States—even if required by law. “We never participate in espionage, and we do not allow any of our employees to do any act like that.”

But what does Beijing think about this issue? According to Chinese government spokesperson Zhang Yesui: “Some U.S. government officials have been playing up the so-called security risk associated with products of certain Chinese companies and linking it with Chinese national intelligence law. This kind of behavior is interference in economic activities by political means and it is against WTO (World Trade Organization) rules. And it disrupts international market order that is built on fair competition. This is typical double standard. It is neither fair nor ethical.”

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Huawei , US Secretary of State , Mike Pompeo , South China Sea , 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty , Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
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