China syndromeHuawei industrial espionage in Poland leads to calls for boycott

Published 15 January 2019

The Chinese telecom giant’s industrial espionage activities in Poland have prompted calls for the company to be banned. The United States is leading the push for a boycott, but many EU governments remain undecided. Huawei offers a capable 5G technology, which represents a quantum leap in wireless communication speed, and which will be key to developing the Internet of Things (IoT), including self-driving cars. Critics charge that much of that technology was stolen from Western companies by Chinese intelligence agencies, for which Huwawei serves as a front.

The Polish authorities arrested Huawei executive Wang Weijing on Friday, but the Chinese telecom equipment supplier denies that the manager and his Polish accomplice are involved in spying for China. “His alleged actions have no relation to the company,” Huawei said in a statement on Sunday, adding that Wang’s contract had nevertheless been terminated.

The arrests of Wang and a former high-ranking cybersecurity employee of ABM, Poland’s domestic intelligence agency, come a month after Huawei’s chief financial officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou — the daughter of the company’s founder — was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. goovernment.

Intelligence and law enfocrcement experts have long argued that Huawei serves as a front for Chinese intelligence agencies, and the Uniuted States has launched an effort to ban the company’s produces from being used in critical infrastructure in countries around the world.

Bloomberg reports that a few Western European countries – but also countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand – have followed the U.S. call to ban Huwawei products, but in Europe the picture is more nuanced.

This is because Huawei’s technology in the next-generation 5G mobile communication technology is attractive. The technology represents a quantum leap in wireless communication speed, and will be key to developing the Internet of Things (IoT), including self-driving cars.

The Chinese supplier is said to be well ahead of global rivals, such as Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia, and South Korea’s Samsung.

Dexter Thillien, an analyst at Fitch Solutions, told DW that European operators were looking for alternatives to Huawei, but soon realized that the company was currently “more innovative and probably better for 5G” than others.

In Europe, Portugal’s main operator MEO signed a deal with Huawei in December, praising the Chinese company’s “know how, competence, talent and capacity to develop technology and invest in our country.”

Norway, whose current networks are largely made up of Huawei equipment, is thinking of ways to reduce its “vulnerability.” The Nordic country’s transport and communications ministry said recently that it wants to reduce the role of companies with whom Oslo has “no security cooperation,” — an implicit reference to China.

Concern for 5G security is shared by Britain, where Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said he had “grave, very deep concerns about Huawei providing the 5G network in Britain.”