Earlier this month, Bloomberg found evidence indicating that several Huawei researchers had worked on projects for the Chinese military. When the story broke, the controversial Chinese tech conglomerate denied that it worked on projects for the People’s Liberation Army. However, a new study suggests that there are significant connections between the telecommunications firm and the Asian nation’s defense agencies.
The New Study
Recently, Fulbright University Vietnam Associate Professor Christopher Balding and the English think tank Henry Jackson Society teamed to review a set of leaked Huawei employee résumés. Together, the two parties discovered some of the firm’s staffers had backgrounds in the Chinese military or intelligence agencies.
One employment record indicated a Huawei worker held a position with the company while also working for the Chinese military. Specifically, the unnamed staffer provided soldiers with instructions in the military’s cyber, electronic, and space warfare capabilities.
Researchers also found a curriculum vitae indicating Huawei hired an individual who held a position in Chinese intelligence. Moreover, the group found records showing the employee “engaged in behavior that describes planting information capture technology or software on Huawei products.”
It’s worth noting that Balding and the Henry Jackson Society did not find proof of international espionage. Instead, the group found records indicating Huawei employed individuals trained by the Chinese defense sector to subvert telecommunications networks.
As such, the research paper found circumstantial but credible evidence suggesting Beijing and Huawei have collaborated on intelligence gathering projects.
As it has in the past, Huawei denied that it operates as an organ of the Chinese government. The corporation noted that it requires all applicants with military or government backgrounds to supply documentation that confirms they no longer hold their old positions.
The company said that since it could not identify the anonymous individuals profiled in the English study, it could not confirm the researchers’ findings. Huawei also challenged the study’s integrity by noting it contained lots of “conjecture” and “speculative statements.”
Additionally, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-supported Global Times, claimed that the study was politically biased. The journalist argued that it’s not uncommon for civil servants to seek employment in the private sector. Balding refuted Hu’s claims and reiterated his concern that government cyber-espionage experts hold positions with the country’s largest telecom.
International Status Unclear
Earlier this year, Huawei was working to become the world’s largest mobile device manufacturer. In Q1 2019, the firm unseated Apple as the globe’s second biggest smartphone seller. However, after the Trump administration put the company on a blacklist in May, the corporation lost several important suppliers and clients. Subsequently, the company’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei, predicted the U.S. ban would cost his conglomerate $30 billion through 2020.
However, earlier this month, President Trump said American companies could do business with the Sino corporation once again. Trump’s announcement followed positive trade talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Despite the ban lift, the rest of the world community seems ambivalent about partnering with the controversial tech firm.
In the United Kingdom, domestic telecoms EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone are working with Huawei to help build their 5G networks. However, the British government is still considering banning the usage of the corporation’s products in the country.
Conversely, the Indian government has refused to let the company participate in building its 5G infrastructure due to security concerns. Huawei even offered to sign a pledge that it would not build back doors into its networks. Nevertheless, New Delhi remains wary of the firm’s political allegiances.
With its recent issues, only one thing about Huawei’s future is undeniable. If the Chinese electronics giant is to continue being a player on the international stage, it will have to rehabilitate its reputation significantly.