With Huawei planning on being the first major telecommunication company in the world to roll out 5G service on a global scale, the firm had high hopes for its future. Yet, all its plans came crumbling down as country after country started boycotting Huawei. While Beijing accused these nations of being “sinophobic,” there are good reasons why many developed nations are ditching Huawei.
The US boycott
The first major country to boycott Huawei was the United States. The decision was based on several intelligence agency reports that warned against using Huawei phones and hardware in government departments since it was believed that these devices leaked sensitive information to the Chinese regime.
“[The government was] deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks… [Doing so would provide] the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage,” Chris Wray, Director of the FBI, said in testimony during a Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2018 (The Verge).
As a consequence, President Donald Trump signed into law the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act in August 2018. It categorically barred U.S. government agencies from buying and using communication and surveillance products from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE.
Later, the U.S. administration started warning allies of the potential pitfalls of using Huawei 5G hardware, which then spiraled into an international boycott of the company’s products. However, spying on other countries is not the only reason the U.S. started acting against Huawei.
The company has a lot of “blood” on its hands. It essentially provided technology to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that allowed it to not only censor the Internet, but also to track, monitor, and arrest dissidents, which helped enable the regime’s brutal crackdown on Falun Gong.
In addition, Huawei has a long history of stealing American Intellectual Property (IP). From being accused by Cisco Systems in 2004 to Motorola in 2010 and T-Mobile in 2014, it seems the Chinese company has actually “developed” technologies off the hard work of American talent.
Allies start boycotting
After the U.S. warned about Huawei, Australia was the first country to take up America’s call and ban the Chinese company from rolling out 5G services in the country. Subsequently, neighbor New Zealand blocked the country’s Spark Telecom from using Huawei equipment.
“The Director-General has informed Spark today that he considers Spark’s proposal to use Huawei 5G equipment in Spark’s planned 5G RAN [radio access network] would, if implemented, raise significant national security risks… [T]his means Spark cannot implement or give effect to its proposal to use Huawei RAN equipment in its planned 5G network,” Spark said in a statement (The Sydney Morning Herald).
In early December, reports suggested that Japan has asked its telecom companies to discontinue use of Huawei equipment. However, the government is said to be staying away from publicly announcing the ban since it does not wish to spoil relations with China.
In Europe, French telecommunication company Orange has declared that it will not use Huawei for 5G services. Czech authorities also warned the public against using Huawei devices. German telecommunications firm Deutsche Telekom is said to be considering avoiding equipment purchases from Huawei.