Huawei is one of the largest international telecommunications companies dealing with consumer electronics and equipment. It is based in China with its headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. The company was founded in the 1980s, and it has grown to become one of the leading global telecommunications companies with annual revenues exceeding $32 billion (Kaska et al., 2019). Despite various competitors in the market, currently, Huawei is the only telecommunications organization with the capacity to produce “at cost and scale” all the 5G elements. In this respect, the company seeks to be a market leader in the 5G wireless communications industry, and thus it has partnered with various like-minded entities around the world in order to achieve this goal. Among other companies in China, Huawei has obtained different patents on the 5G technology. However, the U.S. and other nations are concerned with the Chinese government could use Huawei’s 5G solutions to advance its spying agenda. Therefore, the U.S. and other related countries have imposed sanctions and restrictions on Huawei’s 5G equipment. This paper seeks to highlight the various concerns that the U.S. and other countries have with Huawei and proposes ways that could be used to address this stalemate.
The main issues being raised concerning Huawei and its 5G technology advancements are related to security matters, including the possibility that the Chinese government could use this technology to execute its espionage agenda by spying on foreign governments. Specifically, the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, is believed to have close ties with China’s Communist Party, which is the most influential party in the country currently. Additionally, China is known to exercise the rule-of-law form of governance, and thus it could infiltrate Huawei’s 5G network and equipment for sinister motives. Similarly, according to Kwan (2019), China and Huawei, both have a history of industrial espionage. As such, these factors contribute to the fear that the U.S. has concerning Huawei’s 5G network advances. For instance, given the close ties with the ruling party, the company would most likely act on the government’s orders to compromise the security of other countries through spying. Kwan (2019) adds that currently, there lacks any reliable domestic constraints and restrictions that could reasonably stop the Chinese government from using Huawei to achieve its sinister espionage agenda.
The available information in the literature shows that various governments, including the US, Germany, and the U.K., and non-state institutions, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have raised real concerns concerning Huawei’s 5G network (Kaska et al., 2019; Kwan, 2019). First, Kaska et al. (2019) discuss the issues that have contributed to Huawei’s censorship in the U.S. including “the Chinese national policy of technological superiority, the legal (both domestic and international) context of its operations, and the political environment, including its track record of cyber activity” (p. 4). Kwan (2019) addresses similar allegations made against Huawei, such as the source of its funds, the unabated influence by the Chinese government, and the overall security threat posed by the company’s products and services. Therefore, the U.S. has taken the stance to ban all products by Huawei and gone ahead to threaten its allies that it would reconsider its security cooperation should they continue using the company’s services and equipment.
Different solutions are available to address the security concerns that the U.S. and other countries have raised concerning Huawei and its 5G products and services (Ahmad et al., 2019). The first option is for the U.S. and its allies to start looking at 5G networks as the preferred technology of the future as opposed to being an option that could be disregarded without proper considerations. The current 4G networks and other related technologies have numerous limitations that could be addressed by 5G networks, hence the indispensability of this technology. Therefore, censoring or collaborating with Huawei should be based on technical analysis, given the central role that this technology will play in shaping the digital infrastructure in the future and the associated socio-economic impacts. As such, instead of banning Huawei, the focus should shift to looking for ways of addressing the underlying problems by confronting the technological, security, and economic aspects of 5G networks.
Second, NATO allies and other European Union (E.U.) member states should work together to give a coordinated response to the Huawei problem. This approach eliminates the unnecessary scenario where the U.S. is threatening its allies for their continued usage of Huawei technologies. As such, there is an urgent need for the involved stakeholders to collaborate and invest in modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and cryptography, among other related inventions as counter-measures to the threats presented by Huawei.
Third, the U.S. and its allies should come up with elaborate risk management tools to ensure that they raise risk awareness. Huawei, as a business entity, will operate within the confines of the available risk levels in the telecommunications industry when responding to the issue of being banned in some countries. Therefore, in a bid to resolve the Huawei problems, countries should focus on re-evaluating how their respective societies interact with emerging technologies to assess the level of dependence and the nature of the available digital infrastructure. This way, the involved nations will be in a position to offer clear guidelines and alternatives where possible. The world is changing quickly, and thus countries cannot afford to lag behind, and given that Huawei’s 5G networks do not have alternatives, governments have to be pragmatic when responding to the threats associated with this company. Therefore, the U.S. should lead other countries in adopting stringent risk mitigation measures by ensuring accountability and transparency in the way the digital space is regulated for the benefit of all stakeholders. Therefore, it is not enough to censor Huawei’s 5G technologies because such innovations are indispensable in the contemporary world. Some elaborate risk management tools can deliver positive results. For example, brainstorming strategies will make it easier for stakeholders to assess risks and prevent them accordingly. A SWOT Analysis is also an effective tool for identifying and mitigating potential threats. Additionally, modern software systems have the potential to reduce the possible impacts of predicted risks.
Huawei has become an integral player in the telecommunications industry in modern times. It has combined innovativeness and extensive investment in the technological space, which explains how it has dominated the 5G network market. However, the U.S. and its allies have raised questions about the ambitious plans by Huawei to be the leading player in the 5G technology market. The company is accused of being close to the Chinese government, which raises concerns that its elaborate 5G networks could be used by the authorities to advance sinister objectives, such as espionage. Nonetheless, the U.S. should work together with all involved stakeholders to reach an amicable solution to the stalemate being witnessed contemporarily.
Ahmad, I., Shahabuddin, S., Kumar, T., Okwuibe, J., Gurtov, A., & Ylianttila, M. (2019). Security for 5G and beyond. IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials, 21(4), 3682-3722.
Kaska, K., Beckvard, H., & Minárik, T. (2019). Huawei, 5G, and China as a security threat. Talinn: NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence.
Kwan, M. (2019). Can Huawei sue the U.S. government for defamation? A study on the threshold of foreign state immunity from a comparative perspective. IALS Student Law Review, 7(1), 53-62.