China syndromeLawmakers Raising Alarm over Huawei’s Risk to National Security – in the U.S. and Abroad

Published 27 January 2020

Huawei is heavily subsidized by the Chinese government, so its products are much cheaper than the equipment produced by the company’s Western competitors – thus allowing the Chinese company to insinuate itself into a the communication infrastructure of countries where the Chinese intelligence agencies are interested in augmenting their information-gathering capabilities. U.S. lawmakers are angry at the Pentagon’s objections to Commerce Department regulations which would have made it more difficult for U.S. companies to sell to Huawei. “Huawei is an arm of the Chinese Communist Party and should be treated as such,” the senators write to the secretary of defense. “It is difficult to imagine that, at the height of the Cold War, the Department of Defense would condone American companies contracting with KGB subsidiaries because Moscow offered a discount.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who sits on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has been one of the leading lawmakers pointing to the risks Huawei poses for U.S. national security, and to the security of other countries.

On 15 January Rubio sent a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to exclude Huawei and its products from the British 5G telecommunications network infrastructure.

The full text of the letter Rubio sent Johnson this week is below:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I write to urge the United Kingdom, our closest ally, not to include Huawei Technologies or other Chinese state-directed telecommunications company products in your fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications network infrastructure. As you know, Huawei is not a standard private-sector company. There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese Government and Communist Party, and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a “national champion,” is no exception.

While the United Kingdom has strong communication and cybersecurity safeguards in place, there are widespread and serious concerns that such measures are inadequate given what the United States, and other Five Eye partners, know about Huawei. Ultimately, I have concerns about the impact that any decision to include Huawei in the United Kingdom’s 5G network will have on both your national security, and the Five Eyes joint intelligence cooperation with the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Although Huawei’s equipment may be cheaper than its competitors’ today, the cost of mitigating risks on such equipment will increase over time. More secure equipment from trustworthy suppliers will yield affordability over the equipment’s lifetime and help ensure sensitive data is not easily accessible to Chinese operators. Additionally, the cost of replacing such equipment if China exploits Huawei’s access should be a factor in your government’s deliberations.

Considering the strong concerns shared by U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies on the risks posed by Chinese telecommunications equipment, I hope that you will promptly reject Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of the United Kingdom’s 5G introduction and development.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


U.S. Senator Marco Rubio