In 2012, a Chinese company completed the building of the African Union (AU) headquarters at a cost of $200 million, which China funded. This was a welcome gift to Africa, and the result was a landmark building that ended up being the tallest building in Addis Ababa, as well as a landmark signifying the Chinese-African friendship.
Five years later, there was a crisis as it was discovered that China had not only bugged the building with hidden surveillance equipment but also configured the AU servers to send data to Shanghai everyday sometime past midnight. It turned out that China was on an espionage mission, carefully wrapped in diplomatic benevolence.
This was not the only time Chinese products were being questioned.
In 2017, it was confirmed that Hikvision, a popular Chinese CCTV camera brand (the biggest surveillance products manufacturer in the world) had a backdoor that allowed for anyone with limited technical knowhow to access the products and reset the login credentials. This meant that the devices had been designed with a backdoor for unknown reasons.
Already, Hikvision products had been partly banned in some countries which limit their use in critical installations. Countries like the United Kingdom had already questioned the use of the Chinese made surveillance systems in critical installations. The action reinforced the belief that Chinese hardware manufacturers could be cooperating with the government in some ways.
With that, the company lost crucial markets.
Huawei seems to be following in similar footsteps with their 5G network equipment being blacklisted. Networks are vital for communication, and 5G networks will carry even more data than other technologies have been able to carry.
It is assumed that if Huawei builds the bulk of the world's 5G networks, it will have access to too much data which it could share with the Chinese government.
All this stems from the Chinese legislation that states “…any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law.”
The law also promises to protect any individual or corporation that does that. It also requires any individual or organization to truthfully and willingly give data to state agencies that are investigating situations of espionage. With this in mind, the US government claims that if Huawei is allowed to deploy its 5G network equipment in the US or among its allies, it could be a backdoor for the Chinese government to monitor communications globally.
Huawei is also being blacklisted for alleged involvement in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interest. It is for the same reason that Huawei’s CFO is being detained in Canada.
While there could be some legitimate concerns about Huawei, this is the classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Guilty of spying
The US is also guilty when it comes to spying on foreign citizens, and also supporting and propping some world leaders who have very poor human rights records.
The US has previously been accused of phone tapping world leaders, including 125 top German leaders who included the Chancellor. Besides the federal government, the US has several corporations which are primarily data companies.
What we are experiencing is not a trade war based on principles and values, but international trade gang violence.
Cover image credit: President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Thursday, November 9, 2017, in Beijing, People’s Republic of China. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)