Theater of Cruelty

Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence?

HUAWEI / The United States is as believing as China in using national technology as a means of mass surveillance and political manipulation.


«Vote for Europe! Vote for a smarter future with # 5G! » brags Huawei PR Campaign  which aims to convince Europeans to let the company into their # 5G market #. These slogans were developed to combat American criticism of the Chinese telecommunications giant. Huawei has become one of the main players in the new power struggle between the world's great powers.

Following similar decisions in Japan,  Australia og Taiwan, the United States formally closed Huawei out of its communications network in May last year. Nevertheless, other US allies in Southeast Asia and Europe have not followed suit. While the UK has imposed restrictions on all "high-risk" 5G providers and excluded Huawei from core sections of the network, yet they did not submit the US demands for a direct ban.

Australian networks

The countries that have banned or restricted Huawei were worried that they, along with other Chinese technology giants, could become subject to override  from the Chinese government either now or at a later date. In their risk considerations, Australian intelligence officers asked themselves what they would do if they sat on mandates of the kind enshrined in China.  2017 National Intelligence Act, which gives them access to Australian 5G providers' networks. According to one experienced intelligence officer "[They] concluded that… no one would know about it, and if they did, it would be easy to deny such monitoring activities, as it would be too late to make billions of dollars in investments."

There are certain experiences that can justify the skepticism towards Huawei. In 2018 discovered Le Monde that the Huawei engineers who installed the IT system at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, had deliberately kept the system open and vulnerable so that sensitive information collected over up to five years could be copied over to servers in Shanghai.

Antenna Inspection At Huawei. Photo: Huawei
Antenna Inspection At Huawei.
Photo: Huawei

Huawei and the United States

Nevertheless, concerns about China's espionage and industrial policy have not led to a major counter-offensive against Chinese technology abroad. On the contrary, many countries around the world have ignored US warnings and allowed Huawei to build its 5G networks. Most of these countries – especially developing economies in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa – have pragmatic motivations and are also reluctant to engage with China. In addition, China itself has tackled the problem in strong terms. "In relation to the Huawei issue," says one editorial in  the state-owned newspaper Global Times: "There are two types of countries: those who follow the United States and boycott Huawei and those who do not. China should have a differentiated attitude towards these countries. "

Huawei's 5G hardware is considered to be more cost effective than its western competitors.

In any case, the United States has its own trust issues to contend with. US officials claim "Huawei and 5G are today seen as the prime example of scary activities." And that Chinese technology companies er "Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence". But from the perspective of other nations, the United States is as believing as China in using American technologies as a means of mass surveillance and political manipulation.

CIA investigator Edward Snowden's leaks revealed the fact that the United States uses its diplomatic missions throughout Southeast Asia to monitor communications networks and conduct other forms of espionage. And Australia – another member of the "five eyes" intelligence circle – was captured espionage on Indonesian officials.

Alibaba and WeChat

China takes the point, and their Foreign Ministry tweeted recently: “The United States has been the largest state-owned spy agency online, while playing the role of victim. What hypocrisy! ” Faced with the corresponding frustrating choice between US and Chinese networks, many countries have simply based their decisions on costs and other factors. As Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently  pointed"It does not matter who you buy it from; it can be a friendly country, it can be a hostile country, or you can design it yourself – every system will have its vulnerabilities. "

WeChat has had to respond to allegations that it stores and digs for data in users' personal conversations.

Furthermore, Huawei's 5G hardware is considered to be more cost effective than its western competitors (although this may be a consequence of industrial espionage and the government subsidies it receives). The Huawei network also offers potential solutions to long-term challenges in many countries. For people in the West, Huawei is surveillance  synonymously  with the repression in Xinjiang, where up to 1,5 million Uighurs are arrested without trial. But in developing countries that are still working to establish the rule of law and are struggling to control extremism and terrorism, a Chinese-brand surveillance system is valuable. Therefore, Chinese technology companies have been at the forefront of providing much-needed training and education and have even produced concrete results. In Ecuador, for example, has the introduction of Chinese surveillance systems received the credit for a statistical decline in crime.

Web users complain

There is also no doubt that some forms of cyberbullying have led to opposition within China. Just like the Americans have become disillusioned in relation to large technology companies, China's internet users have complained about the dominance of technology giants and possible abuse of power.

For example, Robin Li, the founder of Baidu (China's version of Google), once created a storm of online opposition when he noted: "I think Chinese people are more open and less sensitive about the privacy issue. If they are willing to trade privacy for convenience, security and efficiency, in many cases they will be willing to do so. "

Many are willing to trade privacy for convenience, security and efficiency.

Similarly, Ant Financial, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba, was forced to be users apologize after automatically registering
and WeChat, China's most popular social media platform, has had to respond to allegations that it stores and digs for data in users' personal conversations.

Profitable technology giants

But like its Western counterparts, Chinese Internet users have few options. The Chinese technology giants remain profitable, which shows that US efforts to exclude them from the global market have not yielded results. Huawei actually had record revenues  in 2019. And although many countries fear falling into a state of digital bipolarity, their choices say: Thailand and the Philippines may be US treaty allies, but both have  entered into agreements on  to let Huawei build its 5G infrastructure.

No matter what happens in the Sino-American trade war, China will continue to work towards digital self-reliance in earnest. While Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently come with a post against disconnection, the global response to Huawei's 5G game suggests that a split is closer than we like to think.

from MODERN TIMES's partner Project Syndicate

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