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UK open arms policy towards Huawei at odds with US security concerns

10 Oct 2012
V3 reporter Dan Worth

In May 2011 I was lucky enough to visit the headquarters of Huawei in Shenzhen.

The city, just a short hop across the border from Hong Kong, is the home of several Chinese tech giants, including electronics manufacturer Foxconn and mobile firm ZTE.

Driving through streets lined by shiny new skyscrapers and growing office blocks, covered in bamboo scaffolding, gives a telling insight into the rampant growth occuring in the nation as it reaches world superpower status.

Of course, not everyone is happy about China's growing power, chiefly the US.

While touring the Huawei campus, I met the firm's top legal council, Song Liuping, who spoke of the firm's frustration in having to deal with the distrust from those in the US, which was already prevalent at the time.

This made the fact that the firm's campus testing centre looks similar to the White House all the more surprising - as you can see below.

Huawei's liability centre is modelled on the White House

I was reminded of all this again this week when a US House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee ruled, in fairly damning tones, that it wouldn't trust Huawei or ZTE as far as it could throw them, all but curtailing their efforts to grow in the country for the foreseeable future.

The reason for this, the committee said, was because of concerns that the two firms were helping the Chinese government mount cyber espionage campaigns.

The two firms were quick to voice their anger - again - at the findings and accused the US of having a pre-determined mindset during what had been an 11-month investigation.

The case is a fascinating and highly public insight into the tensions that exist between the two world heavy weights, with the technology sector one of the key battlegrounds as concerns of patent theft, industrial espionage and full-on cyber hacking are played out.

Only last week a hack on the White House - the real one - was alleged to have emerged from China while major western firms such as Google have faced numerous problems in the country.

Of course the US will say it is doing what is right for its own interests, protecting its networks and taking a cautious approach towards firms that are almost entirely unknown to the vast majority of its population.

The US may well have some other interests in the case too, however, to not only make a point to China that it will stand up to the nation and its firms, but also to protect the interests of its own, homegrown firms.

It's not hard to imagine the guiding hand of major US competitors to Huawei and ZTE, pushing its lobbyists into meetings with security chiefs in the corridors of Washington, whispering tales of nefarious technologies to ensure they maintain market dominance, particularly in the public sector.

This is a conjecture of the highest degree of course, but for whatever reasons Huawei and ZTE are now pariahs in the US, and are likely to remain that way for some time.

All of which leads me to wonder why the UK's attitude towards the firms, notably Huawei, is so very different?

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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