UK report accuses Huawei of collusion with China

Despite having no "specific evidence," it says the geopolitical risk is too great.

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Lawmakers in the UK have urged the country to speed up the removal of Huawei’s equipment from its 5G mobile infrastructure. The UK’s Defence Committee has published a lengthy report, urging the government to look if the ban can be pushed from 2027 to 2025. Officials say that there is “clear evidence” of collusion “between the company and the Chinese Communist Party apparatus.” It also recommends that other nations work together to rebuild the information technology manufacturing capacity that was lost when so much of this industry was originally outsourced to China.

The report begins by listing the usual attack lines against the company, including founder Ren Zhengfei’s Communist Party membership and work for the People’s Liberation Army. (Something that Huawei has long since claimed are not relevant to his entrepreneurship.). It adds that, as a Chinese company, it could be asked to conduct espionage in compliance with the country’s 2017 National Intelligence Law. And that while the UK’s National Cyber Security Center had “not seen any specific evidence” of hostile acts, its “standing assumption” is that Huawei will insert backdoors into its products. Previous reports have pointed out flaws in Huawei’s engineering that, while not intentional backdoors, could be used in that manner.

The report has consulted a number of sources, including venture capitalist André Pienaar, Henry Jackson society fellow Christopher Balding and Roslyn Layton, founder of China Tech Threat. These figures point to the subsidies the company has reportedly received and its opaque ownership model as reasons for a ban. The report adds that the use of Huawei equipment in the UK has caused some consternation from other members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network.

As much as the documents look to criticize Huawei, it also serves as an indictment of successive governments policy toward IT and manufacturing. One of the reasons that Huawei was able to achieve such a large part of the market was because of its low price. This hasn’t been helped by a “lack of diversity across the telecoms supply chain,” which the report says “creates the possibility of national dependence on single suppliers.” The fact that the three major players are Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei is, essentially, not good enough given the current geopolitical situation.

Huawei has already told CNBC that the report “lacks credibility” and is “built on opinion rather than fact.” It added that it expects people to “see through these groundless accusations of collusion,” and instead look at the company’s record over the last two decades.