Over recent months, Chinese telecommunications and electronics company, Huawei has found itself at the centre of international controversy. There has been growing fear that Huawei’s equipment can or will be used by the Chinese government to spy on other countries. Huawei is also accused of a long-running process financial fraud and even intellectual property theft. On top of that Huawei is also accused of breaking US sanctions on Iran.
A lot of these accusations have come from the US and from the Trump Administration. In our latest video we discuss the controversy and how based in facts the outrage really is. However, during the video it wasn’t possible for us to dive into all of the details in a concise way. Instead we have made this timeline to guide you through the last 16 years of controversy…
CISCO vs HUAWEI
US technology firm Cisco sues Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei for stealing its intellectual property in the form of its source code (1). After over a year of conflict, the lawsuit is eventually dropped in July 2004 as Huawei agreed to Cisco’s demands, for example discontinuing certain products that were particularly at issue (2).
HUAWEI IN THE SENATE
Huawei comes to the fore of US politics again 6 years later when United States Senators raise allegations of Huawei’s links to the Chinese government with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (3).
Intelligence Committee Recommendations
The House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Republican Mike Rodgers, recommends that the US government be prohibited from buying and using Huawei products. It also recommends continued vigilance, further investigation and official legislation to deal with worries.
Defending US Government Communications Act
Congress introduces the Defending US Government Communications Act (4), however this was never made law
Huawei fails to get a contract with US provider AT&T, meaning it can only sell unlocked phones rather than through a carrier. This is particularly harmful to Huawei’s business in the US, as 90% of phones bought by US consumers come via carriers such as AT&T (5).
Telecoms giant Verizon also drops plan to sell Huawei smartphones (6). Verizon and AT&T at this time made up almost 70% of the carrier market (7), emphasising the effect on Huawei business.
US Senate Intelligence Hearing
Heads of six major US intelligence agencies (including FBI, CIA, NSA + Director of National Intelligence) come together for US Senate Intelligence Hearing (8). The hearing recommends to US citizens to not use Huawei products because of security concerns.
Leonid Bershidsky, writing for Bloomberg suggested that these recommendations should be taken with a pinch of salt, suggesting they were made for protectionist reasons (9). He puts forth three arguments:
- Spyware in operating systems is relatively easy to detect, especially with the detection ability the US has, so if it was in Huawei phones, then surely US experts would have found it. This argument isn’t the strongest in our view however.
- It is strange that Motorola is not subject to these warnings? Motorola was acquired by Chinese company Lenovo in October 2014. Although now owned by a Chinese company, US powerhouse Google kept hold of most of Motorola’s patent portfolio (10). Bershidsky feels so that this explains why the US isn’t recommending people stop using Motorola. In our view, this is a far stronger argument that the above.
- Europe is not taking any issue with Huawei products. This argument is obviously now invalid but was highly relevant in early 2018.
Huawei fakes reviews of its new ‘Mate 10 Pro’ in order to encourage US buyers (11).
US Military Ban
The US DoD declares that the military needs to stop using Huawei products. Huawei protested this and took the case to the. Huawei protested and took the case to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in August. However, the US ended up doubling down on this obstruction of Huawei.
Huawei argues it is being scapegoated, and that really what is happening is the US is attempting to limit competition so US firms can do better.
Punch From Down Under
In an additional hit to the company, Australia bans Huawei from its 5G Network.
US acts on the 2011 Select Committee ruling and bans the government and government contractors from using Huawei (12). This is part of the Defence Authorisation Act.
New Zealand joins Australia and bans Huawei from its first 5G Network.
China Strikes Back
Seen as an act of retaliation, China arrests Canadian Diplomat Michael Kovrig claiming he is working for an unregistered NGO which is a violation of Chinese law (13).
China also bans Apple products.
Japan Ban Huawei
Although not explicitly naming the company, Japan effectively bans Huawei (14).
BT Remove Huawei Technology
BT will remove Huawei equipment from its existing 4G network and will not use in its 5G networks (15)
EU and US 5G Bans
As 5G continues to heat up, the US plans to build nationalised 5G network without Huawei included (16).
Additionally, the EU suggests de-facto ban on Huawei equipment by amending a 2016 cybersecurity law that would class 5G infrastructure as ‘critical’ which allows it to be vetted. Thus, the EU could veto the use of Huawei equipment in this realm on security grounds.
Polish Spying Scandal
Poland arrests a Chinese Huawei employee and a former Polish-security official on spying charges (17), which the EU claims is a ‘wake-up call’. Poland responds by posturing to ban Huawei from its 5G infrastructure (18).
Oxford University Turns Them Down
Oxford University says it will not accept funding from Huawei.
Germany Seeks Guarantees
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany needs guarantees Huawei will not hand data over to the Chinese government and only then will Germany think about allowing Huawei to be part of the country’s 5G infrastructure.
Trump’s Executive Order
President Trump considerins an executive order to completely ban Huawei gear from US networks (19), but this is problematic for some in the US, as rural carriers often rely on Huawei equipment.
Vodafone pauses deployment of Huawei equipment.
Reports in Italian newspaper ‘La Stampa’ claim that Italy is considering joining other European states in banning Huawei – the Italian government denies these claims (20).
Thailand Takes Cautious Steps
Thailand launches 5G test bed, using Huawei equipment, but is also concerned about security issues (21).
Huawei pleads not guilty to bank fraud charges in US (22)
Germany Disagrees with India and the UAE
India and the UAE give Huawei a boost and announce they will continue to use the company’s products.
Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) claims that Huawei is not a trustworthy partner for German 5G networks (23).
Trump Threatens Germany
Trump administration threatens Germany by claiming that it will limit intelligence sharing between the countries if Huawei is used in Germany’s 5G infrastructure (24), to which Germany hits back by saying it will not be blackmailed and will abide by its own security standards (25).
The UK’s Decision
The UK’s dedicated Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre watchdog puts forward fresh concerns regarding the security of using Huawei in the UK – this harms Huawei’s chances of breaking into the UK 5G market (26).
All of the images we used within this article are available for use under creative commons law.